bilin soldier protester scuffle 248 88 a.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The IDF stepped up efforts to quell violent anti-security barrier demonstrations in the West Bank over the weekend, using, for the first time in six months, the "skunk bomb."
The skunk bomb is a foul-smelling liquid which is sprayed on the rioters.
"The smell is so strong that people flee immediately," explained an IDF source, noting that the demonstration on Friday was dispersed within minutes of firing the bomb into the crowd.
On Friday, IDF and Border Police forces used the spray against nearly 100 Palestinian, Israeli and foreign demonstrators near the village of Bil'in, east of Modi'in Illit. They were protesting against the construction of the security barrier nearby. The skunk bomb was last used in January.
Some 300 people participated in another demonstration at Na'alin on Friday, causing serious damage to the barrier and throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at security personnel.
A top officer in the Central Command said on Friday that Col. Aviv Reshef, commander of the Binyamin Brigade, recently met with Palestinian leaders from Bil'in and Na'alin and urged them to restrain the rioters.
"We do not have a problem with them demonstrating peacefully against the fence, but we will not allow the demonstrators to damage or vandalize it," the officer said, adding that the decision to use the skunk bomb was taken as part of a new effort by the IDF to minimize friction between the security forces and the demonstrators as much as possible.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 100 soldiers and border policemen have been wounded, some of them seriously, during the anti-fence demonstrations.
IDF sources said most of the demonstrators were foreigners and Israelis, not Palestinians. On April 17, a protester from Bil'in, Bassam Ibrahim Abu Rahma, died after he was hit in the chest by a tear gas canister.