The Justice Ministry has begun gathering information about a Sunday afternoon incident in which Border Police officers allegedly used excessive force against a Beduin man who refused to identify himself outside a grocery store across from Tel Aviv City Hall.
The incident took place outside the Super Yuda supermarket on Ibn Gvirol St. when, according to the store’s manager, an employee stepped outside to throw out garbage and was approached by two plainclothes Border Police officers who asked him to identify himself.
In surveillance camera footage of the incident, the man – a native of the Beduin village of Hura in the Negev – can be seen talking to two men in civilian clothes who are eventually joined by more police, after which a fracas ensues. The two are speaking for more than two minutes before punches are thrown.
Though it is hard to make out who throws the first punch, a large number of civilians and police are eventually involved, and two people who appear to be wearing Super Yuda t-shirts (likely employees of the supermarket) can be seen kicking and shoving police. Later in the video, the melee moves further up the sidewalk, where it appears someone is assaulted on the pavement.
Since the late afternoon incident, conflicting versions of events have emerged from police – who say they were attacked first – and witnesses who said police assaulted the man first.
Israel Police said in a statement that officers on patrol looking for Palestinians illegally in Israel “due to the wave of terrorist attacks and as part of internal security measures” asked a man who looked suspicious to show them his ID. They said the man refused and then attacked the police, biting one officer.
Police later released a photo of the alleged bite wound, and said two officers were taken to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital with light injuries.
That version of events clashed with those given by a number of witnesses, including one named Erez Krispin, who wrote a widely circulated Facebook description of the incident.
Krispin said that when the Arab employee stepped outside, a young man in shorts approached him and asked to see his ID, to which the employee answered that the card was inside and asked the officer who he was, but was attacked with “deadly blows, like you’ve never seen in your life, teeth flew in the air and the Arab was crushed” before he could finish.
Krispin added that an elderly woman who asked the police what they were doing was cursed at and threatened with violence by the officers.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigative Department said Sunday evening that it was checking the particulars of the incident, but that an official investigation has not been launched.