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The Knesset commission investigating the February events at Amona released its preliminary findings Tuesday. The report blames the political echelon and the police for the excessive violence used.
The planning of the Amona operation was seriously flawed and there was no coordination between the evacuating forces, claims the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the violent evacuation of the West Bank outpost in its interim report, due for publication today at noon.
Haaretz has learned that the panel has been unable to determine whether the area around Amona – an isolated outpost near the West Bank town of Ramallah that was evacuated in February – was declared a closed military zone, since it heard conflicting testimony on the issue. There were also contradictions between the testimony of Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra and that of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. Ezra, for example, claimed that police were only able to reach Amona on foot via back roads, since settlers had blocked the main access routes to the site. As a result, Ezra claimed, the officers arrived at Amona after having marched for hours across rough terrain. Halutz, on the other hand, said that the soldiers had left their base for Amona at 1:30 A.M. and had arrived within 30 minutes.
In its report, the commission also examined the planning problems that led to the violent clashes with the settlers. One of the questions raised was why female officers were not deployed to evacuate women settlers. Instead, the report will state, male officers were forced to remove women settlers, some of whom later claimed that they were sexually assaulted during the process. The planners of the operation were also criticized for not ensuring that there were medical teams on hand to deal with injuries.
… The interim report to criticize Ezra and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz for interfering with the work of the panel by not allowing the officers involved in the operation to testify, despite the commission’s willingness to hold these sessions behind closed doors. Ezra and Mofaz are also criticized for failing to meet their promise to provide the panel with all the written information it required to do its job.
The report will state that as a result, the commission was unable to hear first-hand testimony. Several senior jurists who appeared before the panel also criticized the ministers, saying that their decision to bar officers from testifying was unconstitutional.
The report will also call on the lawmakers to amend the Basic Law on The Knesset, granting parliamentary commissions of inquiry the power to subpoena people whose testimony is deemed vital to the investigation.
The parliamentary committee charged with investigating the violence that occurred during the evacuation of eight structures in Amona some seven weeks ago was expected to release its initial findings on Tuesday.
The report harshly criticized the government, the police and the heads of the Council of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha) for being jointly responsible for the severe violence that characterized the operation.
According to the report, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra did not prepare for the operation properly, and did not coordinate their activities with the government in a satisfactory manner.
The document also accused the police of using excessive force against the demonstrators. It stated that the security forces’ use of clubs and horses bordered on illegality. The committee called upon the police to change its policies regarding crowd control, and refrain from using potentially dangerous equipment.
It stated that the compromise suggested by the Yesha Council, proposing to destroy the structures themselves, had not been formulated thoroughly enough, and doubted whether it could have been implemented.
The police did not release an official response, but senior officers insisted they performed their jobs properly, and that the burnings of the cars of some of their colleagues who participated in the incident, speak for themselves.
One member of the parliamentary probe, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) told Army Radio that the committee decided to release the initial findings one week before the general elections because once a new government is established, the committee would cease to function unless re-approved by the Knesset.
Although a parliamentary investigative committee published its interim report on the events at Amona today, the Yesha Human Rights Group has also released its own report. This latter report focuses on a subject that the parliamentary committee was not allowed to examine to any great depth due to the opposition of left-wing MKs: the behavior and actions of law enforcers at the scene.
The Yesha report is based on verbal testimonies from around 1,500 witnesses, as well as a stack of photographic evidence, gathered by members of the Yesha Human Rights Group, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and the Yesha Council.
The 18-page report draws the following conclusion: “The police action in Amona was dictated by the political echelons. It was not planned nor executed as an act of law enforcement, but rather as a means of warfare against a population sector defined as ‘the enemy’ or ‘rebel,’ with the intention of harming it, forcing it to yield and breaking its fighting spirit. The preparations for the action, its implementation, results and reactions all conform with this unavoidable conclusion.”