A tour yesterday along the route of the separation fence, from Qalqilyah in the south to Dir al-Azoun to the north of Tul Karm, proved that the "Day of Rage" that Palestinian Authority tried to organized was far less militant than it had hoped for.
While thousands participated in the rallies inside Palestinian towns and cities, only a few hundred youths and children tried to get close to the fence itself, with the aim of confronting the Israel Defense Forces troops stationed there. Given the careful preparations that the Central Command had made, coupled with the orders to troops to exercise restraint, the incidents ended quickly and without untoward violence.
Ostensibly, it should have been in the Palestinians' interest to maintain relative quiet in the days and weeks before the hearings in The Hague, and certainly to avoid the use of firearms in clashes with IDF forces. But the terror attack in Jerusalem on Sunday already proved to the IDF that the Palestinian leadership's behavior is almost impossible to predict, based solely on a cold analysis of what Israel perceives to be the PA's interest.
Accordingly, the Central Command beefed up its presence in sensitive areas to head off potential clashes. Several infantry companies were called in from training exercises and stationed alongside the regular forces that patrol the sectors adjacent to the fence. In addition, large number of police and Border Police were drafted in.
This time, the large-scale deployment did not result in the indiscriminate use of force. Orders issued to troops instructed them to avoid clashing with protesters whenever possible.
In many cases, the protests passed without incident. In places where the demonstrators broke the rules laid down by the security forces, troops responded with tear gas, but refrained from using rubber bullets or live ammunition. Since some of the troops were waiting for protesters on the eastern side of the fence, deep inside Palestinian territory, there was no damage at all to the barrier itself and tear gas was enough to disperse the protest.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Nissim, the IDF's deputy commander in the Qalqilyah and Tul Karm area, security forces were deployed to prevent Israeli and foreign activists joining the Palestinians. The area around the fence was declared a closed military zone, and police turned back several buses carrying peace activists.
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