VIDEO: Israeli undercover police help Palestinians throw stones before drawing guns on them
JERUSALEM - Two Palestinians were shot and injured on Wednesday when what appeared to be at least eight undercover Israeli agents, dressed like Palestinians and wearing scarves around their faces, infiltrated a group of Palestinian protesters during clashes. One of the men is believed to be in critical condition.
The alleged team of undercover Israeli forces were caught on camera by several journalists as they joined in with Palestinians throwing rocks during clashes near the illegal Beit El settlement block outside of Ramallah.
Videos of the event, shot by an AFP cameraman and showing Palestinian protesters running from the scene, have since gone viral. The footage shows undercover forces as they pull out hand guns and move to detain protesters. Cries of mustarabiin - meaning an Israeli in Arab clothing to carry out military missions - can be heard rising up from the crowd.
Israeli army forces quickly responded, coming forward to help the undercover forces.
Three Palestinians were caught and detained, two of which were shot and beaten before being arrested.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Middle East Eye that more than 350 protesters were throwing rocks, firebombs and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces in the Beit El clashes.
However, the spokesperson would not comment on the use of undercover agents at the event and refused to elaborate on whether Israel used these methods in the West Bank and beyond as it has long been rumoured to do.
The spokesperson did confirm that two Palestinians were shot at the scene and said that they were treated by medics at the scene before being taken to hospitals in Jerusalem.
In a Facebook post, an Israeli Army spokesperson Peter Lerner later published a 17-second video showing the incident from a different angle. In this footage, the forces are described as being from the Israeli army's elite Duvdevan unit, the Times of Israel reported.
An official from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told MEE that their medics were unable to treat the two Palestinians, as they were being detained, and had not been able to make contact with them following the event.
The use of undercover Israeli forces has been documented countless times.
An AFP journalist who caught the incident on video released a blog post about the event later on Wednesday.
“It's fairly common to see Israeli agents infiltrate the crowds of Palestinian stone throwers during demonstrations,” the journalist wrote. “I've witnessed this plenty of times in Jerusalem.”
“But today, I filmed these undercover agents for the first time firing live bullets into a crowd of protesters,” he added.
Israel maintains a cadre of undercover police units, well versed in Arabic language and local culture and often drawn from the ranks of Jews, as well as Druze and other Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Palestinians even have a word for Israelis infiltrating their communities, Mustarabiin, meaning someone who is disguising themselves as an Arab.
At protests in which there are youth from a variety of neighbourhoods, it is common practice for protesters to tuck their shirts into their pants, and to question anyone not doing so. The point behind the practice is to show that one does not have a gun around their waist-line.
Last year al-Jazeera released a full-length Arabic documentary that focused on Israeli undercover agents infiltrating Palestinian communities, sometimes for years, feeding information back to Israeli intelligence before they are activated on a particular mission.
The footage of the event has had predictably mixed reaction on Twitter, with some praising Israeli forces for detaining Palestinian rock-throwers, and others questioning the ethics behind the event.
On user on Twitter questioned the ethics of the incident:
Another called what the undercover agents had done “incitement.”
Another claimed that the undercover agents were Palestinians, turned spies:
While one Twitter user called the Palestinians “pigs” and praised Israeli forces.