The Police Internal Investigations Department opened a probe on Sunday after a senior police officer appeared to assault at least two protesters during a demonstration in Jerusalem on Saturday night.
Jerusalem chief superintendent Niso Guetta was being questioned as a criminal suspect, Channel 12 reported on Sunday afternoon.
In an incident caught on film, Guetta was seen shoving and smacking one protester, and then pushing people to the side, as he chased down another demonstrator, hitting him in the face and pushing him to the ground.
Guetta and other officers then dragged the person on the pavement before hauling him off.
In the video, a hand is seen reaching in from out of frame and appearing to dislodge Guetta’s facemask, as he shoves the first protester.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 22, 2020
In a statement, police said Guetta reported that he was attacked, but “nonetheless, the incident will be checked and investigated.”
“Two were arrested for assaulting the officer, one of whom admitted to the assault,” Jerusalem deputy police chief Ofer Shomer told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday. “There is a video where you see that the officer was punched.”
It was unclear which video Shomer was referring to, or at what stage of the altercation Guetta alleged he was punched.
Ten people detained during the demonstration appeared in court on Sunday morning after some of the most intense clashes between cops and activists in nearly two months of weekly rallies. Despite a police request to extend their remand, the court ordered the 10 be released under conditions.
Three of the protesters were held on suspicion of disorderly conduct and assaulting police officers, Channel 12 news reported.
Two of the three were said to be suspected of involvement in the alleged assault on Guetta.
Meretz MK Yair Golan said that one of the demonstrators who was hit by a police officer had not provoked him ahead of the assault.
“I was there yesterday in front of the policeman who hit the demonstrator hard,” Golan tweeted.
“There was no provocation on the part of the protester. I come to every demonstration, always making sure to thank the cops for their professional work, but yesterday a line was crossed. Such an event must not happen again,” Golan said.
הייתי שם אתמול מול השוטר שחבט בעוצמה במפגין. לא הייתה שום התגרות או פרובוקציה מצד המפגין. אני מגיע לכל הפגנה, תמיד מקפיד להודות לשוטרים על עבודתם המקצועית, אך אתמול נחצה גבול.
אסור שאירוע כזה יקרה שוב pic.twitter.com/x8EP4xdnks
— Yair Golan – יאיר גולן (@YairGolan1) August 23, 2020
Police said 30 people were arrested at the protest on Saturday calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ouster, as scuffles broke out between activists and cops attempting to clear streets and confiscate noisemakers.
Avi Kaddish, who was arrested during the demonstration, told Channel 12 news that he was appearing in court because he refused to sign a 14-day order barring him from Jerusalem after his arrest for allegedly disturbing public order and interfering with a police horse during the course of its duties — charges he described as “delusional.”
“I was standing on the sidewalk and the police were charging on their horses. People fled everywhere and a woman fell next to me. I stood between her and the rider and then riot police came and pinned me to the floor,” Kaddish said. “This is a false arrest. I am not a person who attacks police officers.”
At least some of the violence appeared to be set off as a result of a decision by police to begin enforcing noise regulations and clearing the protesters earlier than in the past, following a High Court decision banning noisy protests late at night, due to complaints from neighborhood residents.
At 11 p.m., the police declared the gathering to be illegal, and threatened the use of force. Several minutes later, mounted police charged the thousands-strong crowd, followed by ranks of Yassam riot police.
At least one protester was injured and needed to be hospitalized, according to Haaretz.
Police patience may have also been taxed by a decision by protesters to hold a march through the capital, in violation of police guidelines, leading to minor scuffles.
The marked uptick in fighting came after several weeks that had seen only sporadic altercations between protesters and officers, who seemed to take a softer stance toward the demonstrators after an outcry following violent incidents when protests began to pick up steam in late June.
Police have said that dealing with the protests is “complicated” given social distancing regulations, the urban setting at one of Jerusalem’s busiest intersections, political pressures and other factors. But protesters and others have accused the police of using violent tactics and arresting people without cause.
Protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges and criticizing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 10,000 people attended the Jerusalem protest Saturday night.
Aaron Boxerman and Anat Peled contributed to this report.