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MK’s criticize police conduct in Kochav HaShahar incident

Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 17:02 On Monday, April 27 Knesset Member Yariv Levin, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman, sent a strong letter of criticism to Yitzhak Aharonovitch, the Internal Security Minister calling on him to examine the incident staged by police in Kochav HaShahar on April 16 and to formulate procedures that will prevent similar occurrences in the future. On Thursday, April 16, a police detective disguised as an Arab shepherd and three Arab shepherds approached Kochav HaShahar in a staged incident. The police intended to draw residents of the community to the site, expecting a clash when the residents tried to remove the Arabs. Five residents of Kochav HaShahar were detained on suspicion of assaulting the group, however Honenu attorneys David HaLevi and Adi Kedar state that in the video clip filmed by the police the five detainees are not seen participating in an assault. The detainees explained that the Arabs approached a site which they do not usually approach and therefore one of the residents who was concerned that the Arabs posed a security risk and were possibly going to attempt to steal a herd belonging to residents of one of the hilltops adjacent to Kochav HaShahar summoned other residents to the scene. When the first Kochav HaShahar resident noticed that the herd with the Arabs did not belong to residents of the hilltop he left the scene. The other detainees stated that they were summoned to the scene, but when they realized from a distance that the herd and the Arabs had begun to leave, they returned towards their community and it was then that they were detained. The detainees’ remand was extended despite the lack of progress in the investigation and an indictment was filed against them on April 22. Following the staged event and the public outcry about the conduct of the police, on Monday, April 27 Knesset Member Yariv Levin sent a letter to the Internal Security Minister: “It has been brought to my attention that on Holocaust Memorial Day an irregular incident occurred in the Ma’aleh Shlomo neighborhood of the community of Kochav HaShahar,” wrote Levin concerning the incident staged to incite the residents. “Police actions of this sort near Jewish communities are liable to create confusion, endanger the lives of policemen and residents of the area and to cause, G-d forbid, an error in identification,” added Levin and demanded that clear procedures be formulated to handle such matters. “I request your intervention to examine the details of the incident, to formulate clear procedures, and to reach conclusions in order to prevent a repetition of similar incidents in the future.” The public protest following the incident is growing following the announcement by the Kochav HaShahar secretariat that they froze relations with the police and 150 residents held a demonstration opposite the Sha’ar Binyamin Police Station. Additionally Natan Englesman, a member of the Binyamin Regional Council and a member of its Security Committee, also an active Likud party member, sent an urgent letter to Knesset Members Yariv Levin, Yuli Edelstein, Miri Regev and Ze’ev Elkin, demanding that they examine the actions of the police. “As a member of the [Binyamin] Regional Council and member of its security committee, I regard actions such as these as a cause of serious and severe damage to the security of the region’s residents and also a superfluous danger to the lives of the policemen and the Arabs who were exploited by them,” wrote Engelsman to the Knesset Members. “How can it be that these police actions are in accordance with guidelines given by the Internal Security Minister after criticism was voiced following a similar incident near the community of Susiya in the Har Hevron region? Engelsman requested that the Knesset members conduct a “comprehensive and urgent examination, because in the case of, G-d forbid, a genuine infiltration to a community the residents will not know if it is an incident staged by the police or a genuine infiltration, and lives will be endangered.” Engelsman mentioned that, “During the past few months we have been witness to a wave of attempted herd thefts from Jews in many communities in the Binyamin region. A disaster could very easily occur in which residents and policemen injure each other. An incident such as this could quickly deteriorate due to an erroneous identification and G-d forbid result in a tragedy,” stressed Engelsman and added that, “This is in addition to the security danger inherent in the approach of Arabs to the neighborhood and to a site to which they do not come on a regular basis.”

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