Aharonovitch: Plastic bullets were fired at Gilad Farm

Public security minister speaks to Knesset plenum; police insisted paintballs were fired, settlers said rubber bullets used.

gilad farm demolition protest_311 (photo credit: Va'ad Mityashvei HaShomron)
gilad farm demolition protest_311
(photo credit: Va'ad Mityashvei HaShomron)
Ending speculation as to what type of ammunition had been fired against settlers during the demolition of three structures at the Gilad Farm outpost earlier this week, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the Knesset on Wednesday that plastic bullets had been used.
He spoke at the Knesset plenum in response to questions posed on the incident by MK Yariv Levin (Likud).
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Until Wednesday, police had insisted that paintballs had been used against those at Gilad Farm who had tried to prevent the demolitions early on Monday morning.
Settlers in turn had described three types of bullets, plastic-coated, rubber and plastic-coated- rubber-bullets, when speaking to the media.
On Wednesday, settlers also spoke of plastic bullets. It is the first time that such ammunition has been used against them.
At the Knesset, Aharonovitch explained that Border Police operating at Gilad Farm had used a type of weapon, known as FN303, which use air pressure to shoot out plastic bullets that break on impact. According to the Internet, the FN303 is a “less-lethal automatic launcher.”
In describing the bullet used, Aharonovitch cautioned that a routine investigation into the incident was still under way and as a result not all the details were known about the incident. He added that a report of the incident would be given to the police inspector-general.
The FN303 is a standard weapon used to disperse demonstrations, Aharonovitch said. Police have used it against demonstrators in Umm el-Fahm, Wadi Ara and other places, he said.
It is designed to protect security forces while at the same time insuring minimum harm to the rioters, he added.
At Gilad Farm, protesters swore at the Border Police, issued threats and threw stones at them, he said. At the same time a group of protesters cut down 15 Palestinian olive trees and damaged 30.
Eight protesters were arrested, two for cutting down trees, one for throwing stones and five for carrying knives, Aharonovitch said.
Police had earlier reported that all eight had been released.
“I view very seriously any attack on security personnel, which constitutes a flagrant disregard for the rule of law,” said Aharonovitch. “I completely back up the activities of the officers who had gone to [Gilad Farm] to enforce the law.”
Levin, however, called the Border Police’s actions “shameful” and asked that they be barred from using weapons against settlers. The issue here is not one of law but diplomacy, he said.
Levin explained that permitted construction Judea and Samaria has less to do with law and more to do with the state’s diplomatic policies.
He also accused the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria of focusing on unauthorized Jewish construction in Area C, under full Israeli control, while permitting illegal Palestinian construction.
Immediately after the plenum debate, Gilad Farm protesters held their own press conference.
Protesters have rejected claims of excessive violence against the security forces and noted for example that the knives in question were located in one of the structures slated for demolition and not carried by the protesters.
At the press conference, Yair Tal pulled aside his shirt to reveal a round, coin-sized, red bruise on his chest, just below his right shoulder.
“I went to pray in the synagogue and when I got out, I saw police making a line and beginning to shoot,” Tal said.
“A police officer saw I hadn’t been hit, put the weapon up to my chest and shot me.”
“We found ourselves in a situation where police stood in a line on the main street of Gilad Farm and began to shoot. They shot hundreds of bullets in the beginning – many were lightly injured and that is why you don’t see many injuries.
“But then they came close and began to shoot directly at people. They shot a couple of bullets at each person,” said Eliasaf Guri, a combat soldier in the Golani Brigade who is on his pre-release leave. “A policeman came up to me and shot one bullet in my hand, one in my leg and one in my back,” he continued.
“My hand began to bleed, it was very stressful because if the hit had been anywhere else, it could have been much more serious.”
Guri accused police of shooting “in order to hurt people. After the shooting, they switched over to grenades – I think it was gas grenades – people panicked and ran into the synagogue, and they threw one into there too.”
Guri’s bandaged right hand was displayed before the cameras, and National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz complained that it was not simply a routine injury, but one that also disabled a combat soldier and prevented him from being able to fire his service weapon.
Yehuda Shimon, a Jerusalem-based attorney and father of seven who lives at Gilad Farm, said that two types of rifles were fired with two types of ammunition, and that stun and gas grenades were also used.
“I was shot from a range of two meters, a bullet in each knee, entirely intentionally, and my only crime was holding a camera,” Shimon said.
He said that a police officer had strangled a woman for a full minute while her husband looked on, and that others had stripped head scarves from women’s heads.
Extreme right-wing activists have planned to hold a “day of rage” on Thursday to protest the actions of security forces at Gilad Farm.