Israel Police on Sunday responded to criticism over a video from Saturday’s mass protest in Tel Aviv showing a mounted police officer repeatedly hitting a woman with a baton.
According to police, orders were given to disperse the demonstrators, who were illegally blocking the Ayalon Highway. The protesters were warned that force would be employed if they refused to clear the highway.
“Two protesters waved protest signs and a flagpole at the head of a police horse in a way that endangered the horse, the rider and themselves. The [mounted officer] pushed the protester away using reasonable force from the horse,” the Israel Police spokesperson said in a statement. Photographic evidence was also provided of another horse they said was wounded by protesters using wooden poles for signs and flags on the Ayalon Highway.
The protester seen in the video, Yael Reuveni, told Channel 12 that “the police officer was looking for someone to take his frustration out on. He found the weak link, and that’s where he chose to focus, to block me and hit me.”
“I work with horses as a therapist,” said Reuveni. “The last thing I would do is attack a horse. I held a cardboard sign in front of me to protect myself from the horse after it stepped on my leg, and the police officer continued to hit me with his baton.”
The video, published on social media, caused a strong reaction, with Israel Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai on Sunday ordering Tel Aviv District Chief Ami Eshed to investigate the incident.
Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli wrote a letter to Shabtai, calling the incident an “outrage” and urging the police commissioner to “act with any means to make sure the incident is taken care of severely and that these sorts of incidents are not repeated.”
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has defended police actions during the ongoing mass demonstrations against the government’s judicial reform initiative, said on Sunday that the incident was disturbing and that he would demand clarification about the incident from Eshed.
“At the same time, I strongly condemn the shocking calls of incitement that were heard towards the police such as ‘Nazis,’ which cause the denigration of the Holocaust, along with serious damage to police horses, and I call on the prosecutor’s office to prosecute the instigators and lawbreakers,” the minister said.