Amona – evacuating the wounded
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Committee members Vilnai (L) and Steinitz
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Committee: Police used excessive force
Police officers involved in the evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona used excessive force, while politicians failed to coordinate the operation with forces, a commission of inquiry into the violent clashes ruled.
About 50 days after the violence evacuation, the parliamentary commission of inquiry into clashes that left hundreds wounded submitted its interim report Tuesday morning.
The committee's findings reveal that it found it difficult to point to the reasons for the unprecedented violence involving officers and settlers.
The committee rebuked Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, who refused to cooperate with the inquiry and did not allow senior police officers to testify. The political echelon, the committee ruled, did not make the necessary preparations and did not coordinate the evacuation operation with forces tasked with the mission.
The committee also said settlers leaders belonging to the Yesha Council lost control over the settlers, and particularly over the so-called hilltop youth. Meanwhile, police officers involved in the evacuation used excessive force, the commission said.
A number of questions presented by commission members to the witnesses who did testify raised a number of contradictory answers, which indicated that the joint effort involving the political echelon and security forces was not fully coordinated. Two examples were the timing the army chose to declare the area a closed military zone and the decision to use clubs and horses against the protestors.
One major contradiction faced by the commission revolved around the question of the forces' activities on the night before the operation. According to Minister Ezra, troops were forced to march all night to Amona because the roads were blocked by settlers, while Army Chief Dan Halutz said forces only walked a number of kilometers, according to the initial plan.
Four members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee – Chairman Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Matan Vilnai (Labor), Ilan Shalgi (Secular Faction) and Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) – questioned the witnesses and are expected to submit their conclusions to the committee's extended forum, which will serve as a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the incidents.
The committee heard testimonies from Ministers Shaul Mofaz and Gideon Ezra, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Police Chief Moshe Karadi, Shin Bet representatives, settler leaders and legal experts.