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Israel dismisses officer who hit protester with gun

Israeli police officer sacked by military chief "on moral grounds" after violence against Danish activist

AFP , Wednesday 18 Apr 2012
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Israel's military chief on Wednesday decided to dismiss "on moral grounds" an officer who was caught on film hitting a Danish activist in the face with his gun, a statement said.

The assault took place on Saturday during a bicycle ride near Jericho which involved Palestinians and foreign activists, with footage of the incident sparking sharp condemnation from top Israeli political and military officials.

The officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner, was immediately suspended from his post pending an investigation.

But on Wednesday, the Israel's chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz decided to dismiss him after consultations with head of the central command, the statement said.

"It has been determined by the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Benjamin Gantz, to dismiss Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner from his post as Deputy Division Commander on moral grounds, while dealing with the incident," it said.

During an investigation of the incident, Gantz concluded that aside from the moral issue, there had been a "professional and command failure as well."

As a result, Eisner, who was reportedly due for a promotion, has been dismissed from his position and not be able to serve as the deputy commander of the military's officer school, nor will he be eligible to serve in commanding positions for the next two years, it said.

According to footage shot by a Palestinian cameraman which was posted on YouTube, Eisner is seen suddenly smashing his M-16 rifle into the face of a young Danish demonstrator in an apparently unprovoked attack.

The incident was condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement released on Sunday in which he said such behaviour "is not characteristic of the soldiers and commanders" in the army.

"It has no place in the IDF and the State of Israel," he said.

His remarks were welcomed by Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal in a statement issued in Copenhagen on Monday.

"The Israeli prime minister was extremely critical of this incident. I agree with that," he said.

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