The Israeli army has opened an investigation into an incident in the West Bank during which a high-ranking officer struck a demonstrator in the face with his gun, a military spokeswoman said on Sunday.
The incident was captured on video and shared on social media websites
“This is a very serious incident. A detailed investigation has been opened into the circumstances leading up to this incident as well as on its repercussions,” she told AFP news agency.
According to the activists, the event took place on Saturday when a group of Palestinians and left-wing activists were riding bicycles together in the Jordan Valley, the Israel-based Ynet news reported.
They claimed that the IDF had prevented them from traveling on a particular route and that the ride was in protest of the ban.
According to the report which cited the activists, some 20 minutes into the ride, they were stopped by an IDF force.
The activists said they had tried to resume the ride in a non-violent manner but were assaulted by the soldiers.
At this point, the YouTube video shows an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer, a lieutenant-colonel, beating one of the activists with an M-16 rifle. Three activists were taken to hospital following the incident, Ynet reported.
”We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun,” one of activists told Haaretz. “I tried to talk to them, to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime, but we were unsuccessful. The activists were beaten badly, and the officers just told us we couldn’t be in that area.”
Four activists who sustained wounds on their faces and backs were evacuated to a hospital in Jericho, while three more youths who were beaten refused to receive medical care, Haaretz reported.
Footage of Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner striking the demonstrator in the face with his automatic weapon near a checkpoint in Al-Awja, north of the city of Jericho was broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10 television
Channel 10, quoting a military source, said the officer apparently lost his patience as he and his troops tried to turn back cyclists shouting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Palestinian flags from a closed “military zone.”
An IDF spokesperson said in a statement: “This is a grave incident. GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered a thorough investigation in which the circumstances of the incident will be examined. Lessons will be derived and the appropriate steps will be taken.”
Politician hails the attack
But National Union Member of Parliament Michael Ben Ari congratulated the IDF officer who hit the leftist activists.
“Well done to the IDF officer who did what Bibi and Aharonovich have no brain or courage to do,” Ben Ari said, in reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich.
“Radical leftists must be handled with a heavy hand. There was a tangible threat to the lives of the soldiers and the officer had no other choice. If it was a settler who was beaten we would not have heard the cries of the hypocrites on the left. Turns out they are not interested in human rights but the rights of terrorists and pro-Arabs,” Ari added.