The IDF has installed a new crowd-dispersal weapon on top of the separation wall in Bethlehem.
The new weapon, which is remote-controlled and shoots “skunk” water (putrid-smelling liquid), began operating over the last month. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the weapon can also fire tear gas, among other crowd-dispersal means. [Update, 22.4: A separate response issued today by IDF to B'Tselem states that the device cannot fire tear gas but only water].
In the past month, Palestinian residents of Bethlehem began noticing the new weapon perched on top of the separation wall in an area near where most of the protests against the occupation and the barrier take place. According to participants in last week’s Palestine Marathon, the new camera-equipped weapon moved on its axis and followed them as they passed by it during their run.
One rumor that came up in conversations among Palestinians on social media outlets stated that the weapon was the same one that was installed on the walls separating Israel from Gaza. According to a photojournalist working in the occupied territories, soldiers often use live ammunition against protests near the guard tower in that specific portion of the wall. However, a source in the army told +972 that the weapon will be used exclusively for crowd-dispersal means and will be controlled by the Border Police.
In response to an inquiry by +972, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated that the weapon is “part of our means for riot dispersal in Judea and Samaria. The weapon is remote controlled and has the ability to fire water, tear gas grenades, etc.. It is important to state that it does not fire live ammunition. Israeli security forces act in various ways in order to maintain order in the area, while avoiding harming innocents.” The unit refrained from responding to questions about the reason for installing the system, and whether there are any plans to use the weapon in more areas across the separation barrier.