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Denmark asks Israel for explanation of rifle-butt incident

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Denmark has asked Israel for an "explanation" and more details about an incident in which a senior Israeli military officer hit a Danish pro-Palestinian activist in the face with the butt of his rifle. 

Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner was suspended pending the results of an investigation into the incident, which occurred Saturday and was captured on videotape and posted on YouTube by the International Solidarity Movement.

"We are not aware of all the circumstances surrounding the incident," Danish Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal said Monday, adding that activist Andreas Ias, 20, has been offered all consular assistance. "The Danish ambassador has asked the Israeli authorities for an immediate explanation."

The incident occurred during a protest bike ride in the Jordan Valley. Four activists were wounded in the incident, according to Haaretz.

Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Central Command chief of the Israel Defense Forces, on Sunday ordered an immediate investigation into the incident. Military Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit also ordered a criminal investigation of Eisner.

"This event does not reflect the IDF’s values and will be thoroughly investigated and handled with the necessary severity," IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in a statement.

Eisner was interrogated by Military Police investigators for the first time Monday evening, Ynet reported.

Eisner reportedly said he regrets the incident, but said the video represents one minute out of a two-hour event in which the protesters attacked the soldiers, breaking one of Eisner’s fingers and injured his wrist. He is seen later in the video with his wrist and finger in a white bandage.

Approximately 200 activists, including Palestinians from the West Bank and foreign activists, rode their bikes along Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, to protest what the ISM calls on its website "regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers."

Israeli soldiers halted the activists, who were blocking the main thoroughfare to traffic and began taking away their bicycles.

According to Ynet, Eisner said he did not use a water cannon that he had at the scene in order to disperse the protesters because there was an ongoing dialogue and he wanted to end the event peacefully.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, saying that "Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel."