IDF training Israeli settlers ahead of 'mass disorder' expected in September
West Bank settlers to receive tear gas and stun grenades to prepare for 'Operation Summer Seeds'.
The IDF has conducted detailed work to determine a “red line” for each settlement in the West Bank, which will determine when soldiers will be ordered to shoot at the feet of Palestinian protesters if the line is crossed. It is also planning to provide settlers with tear gas and stun grenades as part of the defense operation.
The IDF is currently in the process of finalizing its preparations for Operation Summer Seeds, whose purpose is to ready the army for September and the possibility of confrontations with Palestinians following the expected vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly.
According to a document acquired by Haaretz, the main working assumption of the defense establishment is that a Palestinian declaration of independence will cause a public uprising “which will mainly include mass disorder.”
The document states the disorder will include “marches toward main junctions, Israeli communities, and education centers; efforts at damaging symbols of [Israeli] government.
Also, there may be more extreme cases like shooting from within the demonstrations or even terrorist incidents. In all the scenarios, there is readiness to deal with incidents near the fences and the borders of the State of Israel.”
As part of its preparations, the IDF is investing a great deal of effort in preparing the settlers for the incidents, with the main concern being confrontations between Israeli settlers and the Palestinians.
Yesterday the army held training sessions for the chief security officers of settlements at a military installation near Shiloh. In recent weeks the IDF has been training the readiness squads of settlements at the Lachish base, which is used as a command training center ahead of September.
The main message the army is issuing is that the demonstrations will be controlled and that the army has sufficient forces in order to deal with every disturbance. In order to be sure, there is also a decision, in principle, to equip the chief security officers of settlements with the means for dispersing demonstrations. These would include tear gas and stun grenades, although that would create a logistical problem as there’s a shortage of means for firing that type of ammunition.
Moreover, as part of the preparations, staff work was performed in which the commander of the platoon responsible for defending each settlement patrolled the area with the chief security officer of the settlement, in order to identify weak points.
The army is establishing two virtual lines for each of the settlements that are near a Palestinian village. The first line, if crossed by Palestinian demonstrators, will be met with tear gas and other means for dispersing crowds.
The second line is a “red line,” and if this one is crossed, the soldiers will be allowed to open fire at the legs of the demonstrators, as is also standard practice if the northern border is crossed.
Each map was approved by the regional brigade commander, and the IDF force that is deployed to the area will be ready to respond on the basis of the lines determined.
As part of the preparations, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi is planning to issue a message to the settlers. The settlers are pressing for the message to include specific instructions on how they should behave if threatened, such as in cases where the roads are blocked or settlements are breached by demonstrators.
There is concern at the IDF, and especially from the Military Advocate General, that any such instructions will be interpreted as rules of engagement by the settlers.
Also, during the past week the National Emergency Management Authority at the Defense Ministry sent letters to the heads of settlements in which they wrote that “difficulties in supply of fuel and gas are expected, and the owners of stations should be ordered to have full loads of fuel. It is also recommended that the owners of grocery stores should ensure they have sufficient stores. Patrols around the electricity and water supply installations and communications lines should be increased.”
Moreover, the letters said that government offices will be on standby, starting on September 19.
At the Emergency Authority they warned the settlements that the stepped-up readiness will last at least several weeks.
An IDF spokesman said: “The IDF is holding an ongoing professional dialogue with elements in the settlement leadership, with the routine security personnel, and is investing many resources in training forces, from a defensive standpoint and in readiness for possible scenarios. The Central Command has recently completed much training for the emergency response squads, and this training is ongoing. Naturally, we are unable to go into details on the operational readiness of the IDF.”