Anti-Netanyahu protester hit in head by water jet files complaint against police

Internal Investigations to review claim of excessive force at Jerusalem demonstration; Yonatan Kimel, 19, says he wants to ‘prevent such incidents from happening to others’

An anti-Netanyahu protester takes a direct hit to the head during a rally in Jerusalem, July 23, 2020 (video screenshot)
An anti-Netanyahu protester takes a direct hit to the head during a rally in Jerusalem, July 23, 2020 (video screenshot)

A protester against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was hit in the face with a direct blast from a high-pressure water cannon has filed a complaint with the Police Internal Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry, Channel 12 reported Wednesday night.

The powerful jet of water during a July 23 rally caused the head of Yonatan Kimel, 19, to snap backwards as he was thrown to the ground. He was further bruised from the fall and suffered damage to his eardrum.

Kimel has also filed a civil lawsuit against police demanding compensation.

“I filed a complaint with the PIID to prevent such incidents from happening to other people,” Kimel told Channel 12. “That’s our way to stand up to police and prevent them from hurting us without justification.”

The PIID will now be required to rule whether there is suspicion that officers at the protest used the water cannon against regulations, and launch an investigation if it deems it appropriate.

Protesters have been holding regular rallies outside Netanyahu’s official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges. Rallies against Netanyahu’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic have also been held, though mostly in Tel Aviv.

There have been occasional scenes of violence at recent protests. Protesters have also accused police of using excessive force during the demonstrations.

Yonatan Kimel (Channel 12 screenshot)

While police have allowed the protests, and most demonstrators regularly disperse peacefully, a smaller core of protesters have refused to adhere to police deadlines to evacuate, leading police to employ force to remove them.

Jerusalem police used the powerful water cannons during several protests in July, but came under intense criticism after a July 23 demonstration in which protesters said they were rounded up and prevented from leaving as cannons chased and fired at them.

Water cannon regulations stipulate that the jets should not be fired directly at protesters and must not be fired toward the head, where they can cause significant damage

The incidents in Jerusalem led to threats by protest organizers to petition the High Court of Justice unless law enforcement officials refrained from using water cannons.

They also led the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee to discuss the practice, with panel head MK Miki Haimovich warning police of the need to respect the protesters’ right to rally.

Police have since avoided using water cannons against protesters, and have sought more peaceful resolutions, though the forcible removal of those who refuse to leave by deadlines has still taken place.

Amnesty International has in the past highlighted the use of water cannons by law enforcement as posing a danger to demonstrators around the globe, most recently in Hong Kong. In 2015, an activist in South Korea died from injuries sustained when a water cannon was fired at him from close range.

This is not the first time Israeli police’s use of water cannons as a riot dispersal method has drawn attention. In 2017, a woman attempting to walk by protesters was hit by water fired by a cannon, sending her flying down the street, in an incident caught on video that made headlines around the globe.

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