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16 Apr, 2012 11:05

Israeli officer hits unarmed protester in the face with rifle (VIDEO)

YouTube video showing a member of the Israeli military hitting a pro-Palestinian activist with a rifle has triggered uproar among both Palestinian supporters and Israeli officials. The officer condemned even by the PM says he was provoked.

The video was posted on Sunday by the International Solidarity Movement which supports Arab rights.Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner was filmed hitting 20-year-old Danish activist Andreas Ayas. The protester was slapped in the face with the rifle which made him fall down as if he had been shot. Other activists who were attacked by Israeli soldiers, sustained wounds on their faces and backs and were taken to a hospital in Jericho.The Israeli Prime Minister has condemned the beating. "Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel," Benjamin Netanyahu said. The incident is “seen as very grave” by the Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and he has dismissed the officer who was the deputy commander of the IDF's Jordan Valley brigade.The clash between soldiers and pro-Palestinian activists happened on Saturday when a group of around 250 went on a bike ride in the Jordan Valley. They called the action “a silent protest” aimed at showing the difficulties Palestinians overcome daily while using the Jordan Highway. They have to get permission from the Israeli military in advance to travel the road. The protesters didn’t get permission and went on a bike ride in the direction of the highway. They were stopped by the Israeli soldiers who hit them and threw their bikes over a tunnel across the road.The military say the deputy commander of the IDF's Jordan Valley brigade, Shalom Eisner arrived after the confrontation started. Activists insist their protest was peaceful, but Eisner has his version of the incident.He argued that activists were trying to block a road, and soldiers were dealing with them for two hours trying to persuade them to avoid provocation.Eisner also said the video was edited and doesn’t show how the Danish activist had hit him with a stick beforehand, and even broke two of his fingers.The officer claimed that he carried out his job protecting the state highway from “lawbreakers”. Israeli media note that conflicts between ISM activists and Israeli military occur frequently. It’s reported that from time to time the ISM manage to provoke soldiers and force them to turn violent, they constantly film the conflicts and the most flagrant episodes are used to blame the Israeli military.