Ben Gvir: Internal investigations now a 'political body'

Cops questioned for throwing stun grenades at Tel Aviv protesters

One officer who threw grenade reportedly tells investigators he took action because he saw situation ‘getting out of control,’ asserts no protesters were harmed

Police use stun grenades during a demonstration against the government's controversial justice reform bill, in Tel Aviv on March 1, 2023. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Police use stun grenades during a demonstration against the government's controversial justice reform bill, in Tel Aviv on March 1, 2023. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Six police officers were questioned by police on Sunday over their role in the decision to throw stun grenades at anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

The Police Internal Investigations Department summoned a cop who threw one of the grenades, Meir Suissa, as well as five others.

An investigation into the incident was opened after a video appeared to show Suissa casually throwing a grenade into the center of a crowd of demonstrators, despite regulations against doing so.

“I saw the situation was getting out of control. There was an instruction that allowed the use of stun grenades. I threw two-three grenades and made sure I threw them in an open area. I saw that the grenade didn’t harm any demonstrator. I was calm. The goal was to complete the event without injuries,” he told investigators, the Ynet news site reported.

In a significant ramping up of their crowd dispersal tactics, police used stun grenades and water cannons against demonstrators who blocked a key junction in Tel Aviv during the March 1 “day of disruption,” as they protested against the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system, weakening its powers to act as a check against the political leadership. Protests against the measures have been ongoing for 10 weeks.

At least 11 people injured in clashes with police arrived in hospitals for treatment for various bruises, cuts and burns. One man needed to have his partially detached ear sown back on, apparently after being hit with a stun grenade.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has commended Suissa’s conduct and urged harsher treatment of protesters who block traffic, said in a statement on Sunday that the probe “sends a very bad message of a lack of backup for Israel Police officers.”

“The decision of the Police Internal Investigations Department [to hold a probe] turns it into a political body.”

Referring to 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak who was killed in a West Bank car crash while fleeing from police in December 2020, shortly after allegedly attacking  Palestinian drivers, Ben Gvir said: “When it came to Ahuvia Sandak, they dissolved the case, when it comes to anarchist demonstrators that block main transportation arteries and break through fences, they summon police for questioning.

“If it were a demonstration of Haredim or Ethiopian immigrants, we wouldn’t hear about it or remember it,” Ben Gvir charged.

In a statement following the protest, Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai said several police officers were injured in clashes with demonstrators. He said police were committed to allowing protests and free speech, as long as demonstrators do not disturb the peace.

A similar round of protests, dubbed the “day of resistance” was held this past Thursday, and passed without the major use of force witnessed the week before.

However, a crowd of protesters shouted at and scuffled Suissa, and screamed: “You threw stun grenades at innocent people, shame!”

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