On Friday, 9 March 2012, B’Tselem documented two serious incidents in which tear gas canisters were fired directly at demonstrators in two West Bank locations. The Israeli army continues to deny that this happens.
Israeli demonstrator sustains leg injury from direct impact of tear gas canister in a-Nabi Saleh
On Friday, 9 March 2012, there was a demonstration in the village of a-Nabi Saleh as there is every week. Border Police officers force stationed on the village’s access road dispersed the protesters using stun grenades and tear gas, even though the demonstration was nonviolent and no stones were thrown. After the demonstration ended, confrontations ensued between Palestinian youngsters and the security forces, during which the youths threw stones and the security forces shot rubber bullets and tear gas, some of which were launched directly at people. In addition, a police tanker vehicle sprayed “skunk gas” at the demonstrators and at houses along the village’s main road.
During that afternoon, a Border Police officer shot several tear gas canisters directly at a group of demonstrators. One canister injured an Israeli demonstrator in the leg. He had not been throwing stones. The demonstrator was evacuated to Rambam Hospital in Haifa and diagnosed with a broken leg. The injury was documented on video by a B’Tselem photographer:
Video: Israeli soldier shoots tear gas at the ground next to demonstrators at Beit Dajan
That same day (Friday, 9 March 2012), a few hundred residents of Beit Dajan in the Nablus district held a demonstration calling for the opening of Route 557 (known as the “Madison route”) to Palestinian traffic. The road was closed to Palestinian traffic over a decade ago, and was opened again for their use some ten days after the demonstration. The demonstration, which was completely nonviolent and at which not a single stone was thrown, was dispersed by Israeli soldiers from the Golani brigade and by Border Police officers using stun grenades and tear gas.
One soldier shot several tear gas canisters toward the ground. The soldier was standing only about four meters from the group of demonstrators. Firing tear gas at such short range is extremely dangerous because it can spray anyone standing nearby with extreme strength.
The soldier’s immediate superior officer witnessed the tear gas being fired, but did not intervene until several activists demanded that he stop the illegal and dangerous behavior of his subordinate. The tear gas launcher was then given to a different soldier.
The army continues its denial
Despite ample documentation of tear gas canisters being fired directly at people, Israeli authorities continue to deny that such a phenomenon exists. Recently, B’Tselem received a response to another of its queries on this subject from Captain Racheli Kahalon, a public inquiries officer at OC Central Command. Kahalon stated: “There is no disparity between the declared policy, of which you have been informed several times, pursuant to which tear gas is not to be aimed directly at demonstrators, and the manner in which the forces behave in the field. The security forces use tear gas of the type mentioned in your inquiry only to disperse violent rioters, and only by aiming indirectly.” Kahalon added that “the officers in Central Command repeatedly clarify to the forces operating under their command the regulations relating to the use of tear gas including the prohibition on shooting canisters directly at people.”
The fact that this letter was sent to B’Tselem after a demonstrator died as a result of being hit by a tear gas canister shot directly at him is particularly infuriating.