By YAAKOV KATZ, jpost.com
The IDF stepped up efforts to quell violent anti-security fence demonstrations in the West Bank over the weekend using, for the first time in six months, the "skunk bomb."
An IDF soldier and a Palestinian demonstrator scuffle during one of many protests against the security barrier in Bil'in.
The "skunk bomb" is a foul-smelling liquid which is sprayed on the protesters. "The smell is so strong that people flee immediately," explained an IDF source, noting that the demonstration on Friday was dispersed within minutes of firing the bomb into the crowd.
On Friday, IDF and Border Police forces used the spray against close to 100 Palestinian, Israeli and foreign demonstrators near the West Bank village of Bil'in. The demonstrators were protesting against the construction of the security barrier nearby. The "skunk bomb" was last used in January.
300 protesters participated in another demonstration at Nil'in on Friday, causing severe damage to the fence and hurling Molotov cocktails and stones at security forces.
A top officer in the Central Command said Friday that Col. Aviv Reshef, commander of the Binyamin Brigade, recently met with Palestinian leaders from Bil'in and Nil'in and urged them to restrain the demonstrators.
"We do not have a problem with them demonstrating peacefully against the fence but we will not allow the demonstrators to damage or vandalize it," the officer said, adding that the decision to use the skunk bomb was made as part of a new effort by the IDF to minimize friction between the security forces and the demonstrators to as low a level as possible.
Since the beginning of the year, over 100 IDF soldiers and Border policemen have been injured, some of them seriously, during the anti-fence demonstrations.
IDF sources said that most of the demonstrators were surprisingly foreigners and Israelis, not Palestinians. In April a Bil'in protester, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, was killed after he was hit in the chest by a gas canister.
Click to view image: '04fefeace312-skunkbabies.jpg'