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Head of special Israeli police unit questioned over excessive force against protesters

This marks the first investigation of a unit commander in relation to police violence at protests

Police arrest Anti-overhaul activist during a protest in support of 18-year-old Amitai Aboudi who was allegedly violently arrested by Chief Superintendent Yair Hanuna during a protest against the government's judicial overhaul, outside his questioning at the police station in Jaffa, August 1, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

The commander of the Tel Aviv Special Patrol Unit, Yair Hanuna, and four other police officers, were summoned for questioning by the Police Investigations Department on Monday, following documentation of possible excessive force being used against protesters in Tel Aviv last week.

Hanuna and the four officers are being questioned in relation to three separate incidents.

One of the protesters, Omer Gat, filed an individual claim against Hanuna and documented one of the other incidents from the investigations.

During a protest, Gat claimed that upon seeing the police violence against the demonstrators, he asked Hanuna: “Where were you in Huwara?” referring to the Palestinian village attacked by Jewish settlers.

“Suddenly, he turned to me with a look of madness in his eyes, he jumped on me, choked me, dragged me backwards and crushed me on the road,” Gat told Ynet News, describing the incident that led to his arrest.

“He had his knee on my neck and as soon as I was on the ground I thought I wouldn’t survive the situation,” he said of Hanuna.

In a second incident recorded by Gat, an 18-year-old, Amitai Abudi, was witnessed being tackled by two police officers, one of whom was Hanuna. Abudi’s mother accused the police of cursing her son and threatening him during the arrest.

“He was punched in the face and teeth, and even when he was handcuffed, they freely punched him – Ben Gvir’s salad bar is open,” said his mother, Yifat Brilliant, referring to a previous statement made by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

While talking about the coalition’s plan to continue with judicial reforms on an individual basis, Ben Gvir said, “The salad bar is open.”

The third incident under investigation involved a protester named Uri, who was arrested by Hanuna about three weeks ago.

Uri claimed that Hanuna slammed him to the ground, placing his knee on Uri's neck while cursing at him. Uri said he felt his nose was broken at the time, but Hanuna would not allow him to receive medical attention while his nose continued to bleed.

Later, after being seen by a medic, it was determined that his nose was, in fact, broken, according to Uri.

Attorney Ofer Bartal of Bartal Cohen Law Office, who is representing Hanuna, said: “The officer did not hit the detainee or threaten him. In contrast to the published still images, the arrest video proves this unequivocally. It's a shame that, in the meantime, he's being given a field trial on social media, some of which is led by lawyers who elevate the rule of law and the presumption of innocence by their throats, but not by their actions.”

Last week protesters posted signs showing images of the police officers accused of using excessive violence against demonstrators. Hanuna’s photo could be seen on some of the signs.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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