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Israeli police officer who assaulted several Palestinians in Jerusalem resigns

April 3, 2017 10:47 P.M. (Updated: April 4, 2017 4:10 P.M.)
A screenshot of a video showing Israeli police officer Moshe Cohen physically assaulting a Palestinian in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli police officer who was caught on video violently assaulting and injuring several Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem last month has resigned, Israeli news website Ynet reported on Monday.

Ynet identified the police officer as Moshe Cohen, saying that he resigned on Monday at a hearing held at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police after his attorney apologized on his behalf.

Ynet quoted Cohen's attorney as saying that "the officer takes full responsibility and announced his resignation from the police at the beginning of the hearing. He expressed real and deep regret and this is his opportunity to apologize to the citizen and tens of thousands of officers."

An indictment was also filed against Cohen, accusing him of a series of violent offenses, Ynet reported.

The video of the incident, which took place in the Wadi Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem, showed Cohen, dressed in plainclothes, aggressively verbally confronting a Palestinian truck driver -- later identified as 50-year-old Mazen Rafaat Shweiki -- after the latter allegedly hit the officer’s car.

Over the course of the nearly two-minute long video, Cohen proceeded to headbutt, slap, punch, kick, and knee Shweiki in the lower abdomen. Shweiki told Ma’an that he sustained fractured ribs following the assault.

Ahmad al-Tawil, a 26 year-old Jerusalemite who witnessed the scene, told Ma’an that Shweiki was starting up his vehicle when Cohen, dressed in civilian clothing with a gun on his belt, went up to the truck driver and started berating him.

Al-Tawil said that he tried to intervene once Cohen began assaulting Shweiki, only for Cohen to hit him several times in the head and stomach, injuring al-Tawil in the eye.

The video then goes on to show at least two other Israeli police officers arriving at the scene, before the first officer violently kicks Shweiki in the back as he attempted to enter his vehicle.

Al-Tawil said that three Israeli special forces officers arrived at the scene at the time when the video cut off, and assaulted Palestinian men present at the scene, pulling their guns on them while the first Israeli officer went on to assault Shweiki.

Shweiki confirmed that the police officers who arrived later on the scene also assaulted him and the other Palestinians who had tried to defuse the situation.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri claimed in a statement at the time that the video showed “dangerous and unordinary individual behavior” that did not reflect the usual conduct of Israeli police forces.

Despite al-Samri’s statement, Palestinians have long claimed that Israeli forces abuse their position of power to verbally and physically humiliate and assault Palestinians on a regular basis.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have reported numerous cases of Israeli forces physically assaulting Palestinians in the city, including security guards at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

In August, Israeli forces reportedly assaulted 11 Palestinians in two separate incidents in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

When contacted by Ma’an at the time, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld denied knowledge of the incidents and rejected the use of the word 'attacks,' telling Ma'an that "Israeli police don't attack Palestinians."

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem routinely report mistreatment by Israeli forces, with Israeli authorities cracking down on Palestinian youths in recent years, while Palestinians have often accused Israeli forces of detaining Palestinian youths without any evidence of wrongdoing, and assaulting them in the process.

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