Probe opened into officer who hurled stun grenade at anti-government Tel Aviv rally

Internal investigations department said gathering footage of incident to assess cop’s actions; National Security Minister Ben Gvir says he backs officer for dispersing ‘anarchists’

Israel Police officer Meir Suissa, right, prepares a stun grenade moments before he hurled it into a crowd of demonstrators during a mass protest in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (Video screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Israel Police officer Meir Suissa, right, prepares a stun grenade moments before he hurled it into a crowd of demonstrators during a mass protest in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (Video screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Police Internal Investigations Department opened a probe Thursday into the conduct of a police officer who hurled a stun grenade into a crowd of anti-government protesters a day earlier.

PIID, which sits under the Justice Ministry, was reportedly working to gather video footage of the incident to determine if the officer had violated procedures.

A complaint was filed against the officer after a video showed him casually throwing a grenade into the center of a crowd of demonstrators, despite regulations against doing so. The officer holds the rank of superintendent, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

In response to the probe, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who oversees the police, said: “I give full backing to the officer who dispersed rioting anarchists with a stun grenade.”

He said he would support the officer who, “unlike PIID personnel sitting in their air-conditioned rooms, must deal with the anarchists.”

Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, also suggested that the PIID might be acting “from a political motivation,” though he offered no evidence for the claim.

In a significant ramping up of their crowd dispersal tactics, police used stun grenades and water cannon against demonstrators who blocked a key junction in Tel Aviv 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 two months.

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.

And at least 50 people were arrested in the nationwide demonstrations, which blocked roads, disrupted train service, and drew thousands out to march in what organizers dubbed “a day of disruption.”

In a statement, 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 so long as demonstrators do not disturb the peace.

Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir in the Tel Aviv police command center, during demonstrations in the city against the coalition’s judicial overhaul, March 1, 2023 (via Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

As police aggressively confronted the protesters, Ben Gvir was present at the police’s forward command center, holding a situational assessment with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Tel Aviv police chief Ami Eshed.

Ben Gvir backed the police effort, telling law enforcement officials that there must be “zero tolerance toward anarchists.”

The protests came as the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved for its first reading in the Knesset plenum a government-backed bill to radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s ability to strike down legislation, amid opposition outrage directed at committee chair MK Simcha Rothman for his management of the process.

Critics say the proposed overhaul will weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances, and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters say it is a much-needed reform to rein in an activist court.

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