Water Cannons to the Head: Police Disperse anti-Netanyahu Protesters Against Regulation

At exactly 12:30 A.M. the order was given for the police to move into action. It was issued by the commander of Jerusalem’s Moriah district police department, which is responsible for an area of the city that includes the site of the regular demonstrations opposite the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence. The consequences of the order were rather dramatic.

Three water cannons burst into nearby Paris Square, outflanking several hundred people and indiscriminately aiming powerful jets of blue-tinted water at them – including non-violent protesters, members of the media and passersby. Even Border Police on the steps of the adjacent Kings Hotel were hit.

Less lethal means. That’s what the police call the water cannons – mobile equipment that is designed to disperse violent demonstrations. For the time being, they haven’t been lethal, but they absolutely can be dangerous. Several demonstrators fainted from the force of the water on their heads or were left injured and bleeding after falling to the ground.

It now turns out that the police, who recently began deploying the water cannons against those protesting against Netanyahu in Jerusalem, have been violating of their own internal rules, which bar hitting demonstrators’ heads with the jet spray. The rules have only partially been made public and the regulations on their actual use have not been disclosed. But Haaretz has found that what has been made public explicitly states that the jet of water cannot be directed at demonstrators’ heads from close range.

“The spray must not be directed at the head of anyone from less than 25 meters (82 feet) from the front” of the equipment, the rules state, adding that the equipment cannot be used less than 20 meters away under any circumstances. The rules that have been disclosed also state that in any event, “it should not be sprayed directly at the heads of demonstrators due to concern that it would cause traumatic harm in sensitive areas as a result of the force of the jet.”

Police sources have said they make “proportionate and professional” use of the crowd dispersal means at their disposal, but the rules don’t appear to have been given to the people operating the water cannons in recent weeks. In video footage from Thursday’s demonstration, a young man is seen flung backwards by a jet of water directed at his head. There have also been accounts of head injuries from the water cannons.

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ובתמונה שאפילו לא שמתי לב שתפסתי עד שחזרתי הביתה – pic.twitter.com/v3EodejVjz

— OrBaren (@orbaren) July 25, 2020

The young man in the video has been identified as 19-year-old Yonatan Kimel of Tel Aviv, who said he lost consciousness from the force of the water.