Soldiers who witnessed Saturday's incident in which Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner was caught on camera striking a Danish activist with his M-16 rifle said the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade was hit by a bicycle that was hurled at him by the pro-Palestinian foreign activists.
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Eisner admitted to striking the Danish activist, but said he was attacked prior to the incident. "It's a shame that the camera did not capture the attack on Eisner," one of the soldiers said Tuesday.
"It must be understood that the incident itself lasted maybe a minute or two," said a soldier who serves in an IDF reserves battalion currently stationed in the Jericho sector, where the incident took place. "The two hours that preceded the incident were rather calm, because Eisner allowed the activists to protest along the side of the road. Had they demonstrated on the road itself - it would have ended with a terrible accident. Before they (activists) tied to block the road, things were fairly quiet."
The altercation occurred when dozens of foreign activists and Palestinians on bicycles and on foot left Yitav, located near the Palestinian village of Ouja, and headed towards join Route 90, a major north-south artery. Access to the road was blocked by a group of IDF soldiers.
The activists said they sang and chanted peacefully for about half an hour, then decided to march toward the soldiers in an effort to reach Route 90. That is when Colonel Eisner became violent, they said.
"Eisner lost his temper. We’ve never seen anything like it before," a resident of Ouja said. "You won't find a photo of the officer being assaulted because it never happened."
Saad, a paramedic with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, documented the altercation with his camera. "I did not see the officer being hit. I photographed everything I saw, and it all happened very quickly. This area is very calm. There are no altercations with the army.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz was presented with the findings of the army's initial investigation into the incident. Eisner admitted that he should not have struck the activist with his rifle, but stressed that the foreign activists had assaulted him as well.
IDF officials estimated that Eisner will be dismissed from his post but may be offered another role in the army.
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