Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Amona Inquiry Committee Testimony

The Haaretz report:

Witnesses on Tuesday told the parliamentary commission investigating the Amona evacuation that police officers threw rocks at right-wing protesters during the violent clashes.

The Knesset panel on Tuesday continued hearing testimony from individuals - most of them members of the settlers' Yesha Council - present during the February 1 evacuation of the illegal West Bank settlement homes.

The witnesses also told the panel that police officers used excessive force during the evacuation and sexually harassed female protesters.

Anat Ruth, [she is not religious nor does she support Yesha politics] present during the Amona evacuation in the framework of research she was conducting on the Yesha Council on behalf of the Israel Democracy Institute, said she saw police officers throwing stones at protesters who had taken up rooftop positions.

Ruth noted she did not see settlers or right-wing protesters - but only police forces - behaving violently. Ruth said she herself was hit on the head by a baton-wielding officer.

Four eyewitnesses testifying on behalf of the Yesha Council told the panel about the brutality of police behavior, particularly officers from the Yasam riot-control unit.

Yitzhak Har-Tov, a combat medic present at Amona on his own initiative, said: "I saw how officers beat wounded protesters with batons." He said that, when asking for assistance in evacuating wounded, police retorted, "make due on your own."

Ya'akov Tessler, a student at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva, said police beat him and his friends with batons, breaking his nose.

Israel Defense Forces Major (res.) David Weiner, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Ofra, said settler protesters did not intend to make use of violent tactics at Amona. He said they rather intended a quiet protest against the demolitions and evacuation of Amona similar to those carried out in Gush Katif during last year's disengagement. Weiner said police did not make use of water cannons but immediately deployed mounted officers wielding batons.

Noga Hacohen, a social worker for the Binyamin regional council in the West Bank, told the Knesset panel that "we received testimonies and complaints from girls who took part in the demonstration that they were sexually harassed by officers and were the targets of blatant sexual comments." According to Hacohen, girls present during the evacuation told her officers made statements such as, "We will screw you," "We'll make sure you never have children" and "We will rape all of you."

Hacohen said one girl reported officers also sexually abused female protesters physically. The social worker noted one 19-year-old woman said two officers grabbed her and groped her in a humiliating manner while shouting, "We will screw you."

No comments: