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Golan Druze protest turns violent

A dozen police officers and three demonstrators were hurt at anti-wind farm rally.

Police stand guard during a protest against the construction of a wind farm near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Police stand guard during a protest against the construction of a wind farm near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

A dozen police officers were injured and three protesters were hurt, two seriously, during a demonstration on Wednesday by the Druze community in the Golan Heights against the construction of a wind farm.

The injured protesters were transported to Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat; one man in his 20s suffered from a gunshot wound.

The Israel Police said that 12 of its officers were injured in the clashes without giving details on their condition.

The police said one officer was forced to shoot “after he felt an immediate danger to his life, when a group of masked men approached him with stones in their possession. One of them who ran towards him with what was apparently a sharp object was slightly wounded in the leg by the shot.”

It was the second consecutive day that thousands of people from Majdal Shams—the largest of the four Druze towns in the Golan Heights—protested against Israel’s largest renewable energy project.

The protesters threw stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers, the police said. Several roads in the area were blocked as authorities dealt with the demonstrations.

Police said that in the afternoon, dozens of Druze attempted to take over a police point at a restaurant using live fire, throwing stones and shooting fireworks. The police provided visual evidence of the incident.

Clashes between Druze and police in the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. Credit: Israel Police.

“It is important to note that any act of violence against police officers is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The Israel Police is committed to ensuring the safety of all citizens and will take all necessary measures to maintain order and security,” police said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met with Shaykh Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel. They were joined by Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Ronen Bar and other senior officials.

“I view with great severity and concern what is happening at the moment on the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Druze spiritual leader Shaykh Mowafaq Tarif and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 21, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

The Enlight Renewable Energy company announced the groundbreaking for the $350 million Genesis Wind project in June, which will include 38 advanced wind turbines upon completion. The Druze community sees the project as an encroachment on their land.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in a statement said that the government was moving ahead with a plan to address the concerns of the Druze villagers. He added, however, that there was no justification for violence and that the wind farm project went through the proper legal procedures to be built.

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