In a somewhat unprecedented act of violence, a Druze mob on the Golan Heights clashed with Israeli police on Wednesday while protesting against the construction of a new wind turbine facility.
A dozen police officers were injured and three protesters were hurt, two seriously, during the demonstration. The injured protesters were transported to Ziv Medical Center in Safed; one man in his 20s suffered from a gunshot wound.
The Israel Police said that 12 of its officers were injured in the clashes without giving details on their condition.
The police said one officer was forced to shoot “after he felt an immediate danger to his life, when a group of masked men approached him with stones in their possession. One of them who ran towards him with what was apparently a sharp object was slightly wounded in the leg by the shot.”
It was the second consecutive day that thousands of people from Majdal Shams—the largest of the four Druze towns in the Golan Heights—protested against Israel’s largest renewable energy project.
The protesters threw stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers, the police said. Several roads in the area were blocked as authorities dealt with the demonstrations.
Police said that in the afternoon, dozens of Druze attempted to take over a police point at a restaurant using live fire, throwing stones and shooting fireworks. The police provided visual evidence of the incident.
“It is important to note that any act of violence against police officers is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The Israel Police is committed to ensuring the safety of all citizens and will take all necessary measures to maintain order and security,” police said in a statement.
The Enlight Renewable Energy company announced the groundbreaking for the $350 million Genesis Wind project in June, which will include 38 advanced wind turbines upon completion. The Druze community sees the project as an encroachment on their land.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in a statement said that the government was moving ahead with a plan to address the concerns of the Druze villagers. He added, however, that there was no justification for violence and that the wind farm project went through the proper legal procedures to be built.
The Druze community in general are seen as loyal citizens of the State of Israel, and Druze with Israeli citizenship are, by their own request, required to do military service alongside their Jewish countrymen. Druze and Jews regularly refer to one another as “blood brothers.”
But the Druze population on the Golan Heights are mostly not Israeli citizens. While the Golan has been annexed, and citizenship offered to the Druze living there, most turned it down for fear the territory would one day be returned to Syria and they branded as traitors.
The Druze on the Golan are usually not seen as a security problem and are typically welcoming of Israelis. But there is concern that the younger generations are being influenced by anti-Israel sentiments on Arabic-language social media.
With reporting by TPS.
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