Activists, who had arranged a joint event along the two sides of the border with Gazans, were confronted by employees of a firm building a security barrier on the Israeli side
A construction worker tries to grab a demonstrator’s Palestinian flag along the Gaza border, Oct. 16, 2019.
Almog Ben Zikri, Haaretz, Oct 17, 2019
Several employees of the Israeli construction firm building a security barrier along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip attacked a group of left-wing activists in the area on Wednesday.
The employees of Danya Cebus’ Geo Danya subsidiary pushed the activists, cursed at them and grabbed and burned Palestinian flags that they were carrying. The activists had arrived in the area for a joint event with a group of Gazans on the other side of the border, in which they planned to speak to each other by phone.
The confrontation took place a few hundred meters from the border in an area designated as a closed military zone, which civilian workers are not authorized to enforce. After the incident, soldiers arrived at the scene. Two of them pushed one of the activists to the ground. A video of the incident shows the responsible officer stopping them and ordering the activists to leave the area.
According to Yossi Makaitan, organizer of the joint event, when activists came to the area near the Danya Cebus operating site, several workers came out and started to yell at them, curse and grab their flags. Some of the activists filmed the attack on video. Activists said a few soldiers looked on from a distance and did not intervene, and that another group of soldiers came and removed them from the site.
On Thursday morning, Haaretz identified two of the workers in the video at one of the offices at the site. They refused to discuss the incident and referred questions to the construction company spokesman’s office.
In the videos obtained by Haaretz, there is a man who identified himself as the site manager. He was wearing a bulletproof vest typical of those who work near the border. He is seen cursing the activists, calling one a “homo,” and trying to push another activist’s camera out of her hand while calling her a “lesbian.”
Construction of the Israeli barrier along the frontier with the Gaza Strip, Sept. 2019. (Eliyahu Hershkovitz)
He is later seen asking another worker to get a cigarette lighter so he could torch a Palestinian flag being carried by another activist, an English speaker who tried to resist, claiming the flag was her property. The worker who brought over the lighter asked a third worker to get some combustible material, and in the end he is seen setting the flag on fire.
A large group of soldiers came over and told the activists they were inside a closed military zone and asked them to leave. Other videos from the incident show two soldiers pushing an activist and throwing him to the ground. When the officer in charge arrived at the scene, he put a stop to the soldiers’ actions.
Danya Cebus did not address its employees’ aggressive behavior and did not condemn the cursing or violence. Its statement reads: “Danya Cebus is taking part in carrying out the national project of building the barrier along the Gaza border. The project’s workers do their work faithfully day and night while putting their personal safety at risk. In this case civilians penetrated the work site, which is a closed military zone, without any permission or coordination, and interfered with the work. As a result, the matter was referred to the relevant military officials. The employees involved will be questioned about the incident. In any event, it should be noted that Danya Cebus does not have any political position on the matter.”
The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said “the area in which the gathering took place is dangerous for civilians due to its proximity to the border and the possible threats from the Gaza Strip. It should be noted that at the entrance to the area, there are concrete blocks and a gate meant to block admission.
The spokesperson said the soldiers at the site “asked the demonstrators a number of times to move away from the border area for the sake of their personal safety. The soldiers’ conduct in the video will be examined.”