60 cops hurt, 13 protesters arrested, but none indicted for Amona rioting
3 weeks on, prosecutors yet to receive results of investigations into violent resistance during outpost evacuation
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
Dozens of police officers were wounded during the evacuation of the Amona outpost three weeks ago, but as of Thursday, no indictments had been filed against their attackers.
Thirteen protesters were arrested during the two-day evacuation effort for “disturbing the peace and using violence against officers,” according to police.
During the evacuation of the illegal settlement on February 1 and 2, some 60 officers were injured. According to police, protesters hurled rocks at the officers, threw bleach and acid at them, hit them with metal rods and sprayed them with tear gas. Fifteen protesters also received medical treatment, some for injuries sustained during the evacuation and others for hypothermia.
One officer is reportedly at risk of losing vision in his left eye after a protester hit him in the face with a metal chain.
He received treatment at Safed’s Ziv Hospital and has since been released to recuperate at home, the hospital said.
Another officer had his shoulder dislocated. The rest suffered mostly minor injuries, bruises, superficial cuts and chemical burns, according to medical officials.
Immediately following the evacuation, a busload of detained demonstrators shattered the windows of a bus that was transporting them away from the settlement and attempted to flee. One protester also smashed a police cruiser’s rear window with a large rock.
The State Attorney’s Office has yet to press charges against any offenders, as it hasn’t received the results of the investigations from police, a spokesperson said this week.
A spokesperson for the police said the investigations into the incidents were “ongoing.” However, he would not elaborate on what was holding up their completion.
The spokesperson acknowledged that most of the suspects were caught in the act of attacking officers or immediately afterward, which would presumably mean there should be little confusion as to who was involved. The police had also deployed multiple representatives of its “criminal identification” unit throughout the settlement with still and video cameras to document the evacuation operation.
In comparison, ultra-Orthodox protesters arrested on Thursday, February 9 in Jerusalem, for disturbing the peace during violent demonstrations against army enlistment, were charged in court on Sunday, three days later.
Rocks, metal rods and tear gas
The protests against the evacuation were for the most part nonviolent. Police estimated that 1,000 people — the majority of them teenage boys — demonstrated in Amona, barricading themselves inside the outpost’s buildings and forcing officers to remove them one by one.
There were, however, two main incidents of violence: in the beginning of the evacuation, as officers made their way into the outpost; and at the end, when police cleared out Amona’s synagogue, where more extreme activists, mainly non-Amona residents, had barricaded themselves.
The officers were almost all unarmed and, with few exceptions, did not don protective body armor, instead wearing bright blue sweatshirts and caps. As they marched up the hill to the outpost, a handful of young demonstrators threw rocks and eggs at them.
When the officers started moving deeper into the settlement, more direct clashes broke out, mostly comprising pushing and shoving. But at times, these conflicts escalated. Protesters occasionally lobbed bottles of paint and bleach at police.
The actual evacuation of the outpost’s buildings passed with few incidents on the first day. Most protesters were led out on foot, and only a few were forcibly carried out by police officers.
By the next morning, every building but the settlement’s synagogue was cleared out. The house of worship became a last stand for the protesters, holed up inside with metal rods, chains, tear gas and other corrosive chemicals.
It was in evacuating the synagogue that the majority of the police officers were injured. According to police, 24 officers were injured on the first day and the other 36 on the second day. Some of them were taken to the hospital for treatment, while other received medical care on site.
When the synagogue was finally cleared, police found that protesters had drawn graffiti on the walls, including a swastika that was meant to imply the Israel Police was a Nazi organization.
The violent end to the evacuation was met with widespread condemnation. Amona residents distanced themselves from the more aggressive protesters, stressing that they were not residents of the outpost.
At the time, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he expected police “to bring to justice all those who used violence against security forces.”
Erdan’s office did not respond to a Times of Israel request for comment on the apparent delay in the police investigations.