Monday, February 10, 2020, 10:07 On Sunday, February 2, border police impounding construction equipment brutally assaulted protesters at Geulat Tzion in the Binyamin region. Video clips documenting the incident reveal a particularly violent confrontation on the part of the border policemen, who repeatedly violated the law as they assaulted area residents passively protesting. The assault included use of tear gas in violation of orders, dragging girls by their hair, severely violent detentions, and attempts to disrupt documentation of the assault by confiscating cell phones used to record the incident.
Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who is representing the residents of Geulat Tzion, filed a complaint with the Police Investigation Unit (PIU) over severe brutality on the part of the border policemen. The video clips show the border police commander himself at the scene, violating orders for permitted use of tear gas.
The border police commander, Benny Moati, approached girls sitting on the ground and resisting passively, and sprayed tear gas in their faces, one by one, at point-blank range. The video shows the girls backing off and trying to shield their faces from the gas.
Tear gas at point blank range; Video credit: Geulat Tzion
The complaint stated that, “If the commander acted thus, then it is absolutely clear that during the entire operation the use of tear gas was completely unrestrained.” And indeed, additional border policemen used tear gas illegally, among them border policewoman Bar Gagon, who also sprayed tear gas at point-blank range in girls’ faces, and in the face of a passive resister who was on construction equipment at the site.
Another video clip shows a mother with a baby in a sling carrier, vomiting in reaction to tear gas sprayed in her face at point-blank range. From the complaint: “The video clips prove that the use of tear gas was completely unrestrained, in violation of the guidelines, damaging, humiliating, and created a feeling that the settlers were not being treated according to the written guidelines, but rather they were subject to other rules, violent rules of the field.”
The border policemen violated guidelines for patrols, which specify that suspects must be warned before tear gas is used on them, the use of tear gas on small children and in the area of innocent people liable to be injured is prohibited, the use of tear gas on people passively resisting detention is prohibited, and the tear gas must be sprayed from a distance of a least one meter from people resisting detention. All of these guidelines were violated during the incident.
Additionally, the complaint states that the incident was generally violent: the border policemen beat protesters with their weapons, girls were dragged by their hair, medics trying to provide assistance were initially prevented from reaching injured protesters, and more.
One of the girls who participated in the protest described how the border policemen repeatedly sprayed tear gas at her from point-blank range, violently beat her, and emptied two tear gas canisters on her. She was evacuated from the protest to the Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem and after her release was re-admitted on Saturday. “I was completely sprayed. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. The entire week afterwards I was short of breath, nauseous, dizzy. I coughed all the time. Last Shabbat I was taken again to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe at all. I had a chemical inflammation of the lungs from inhaling too much tear gas.”
One of the video clips shows a border policeman grabbing a cell phone from one of the residents as she documented the incident. From the complaint: “The seizure is all the more serious in light of the documentation of police brutality at the scene.” Also two of the male protesters were stripped during the incident “as a means of quelling passive resistance.”
Cell phone seizure; Video credit: Geulat Tzion
In the conclusion of the complaint Yado demands an investigation into the incident: “The general picture here is of a brutal evacuation, uncontrolled and in the end rife with illegalities. Therefore both the details and the overall unfolding of the incident must be investigated.”
Honenu Attorney Menasheh Yado emphasized that: “We demand an immediate investigation and the suspension of the commander and the border policemen who sprayed tear gas in the faces of the girls and the other protesters, until full clarification of the incident.”