Palestinians protest to mark 62 years since the Nakba, or catastrophe May 17, 2010
Palestinians protest to mark 62 years since the Nakba, or catastrophe May 17, 2010 Photo by AP
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The Israel Defense Force is preparing to substantially bolster its presence near Palestinian population centers in the coming two weeks as planned public events to mark the Nakba (the Palestinians' term for the events of 1948 ) approach, including processions and rallies.

In recent weeks, a number of Palestinian groups have posted notices online calling for a "Day of Rage" in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Nakba Day, which falls this year on May 15. The groups are calling for demonstrations to promote the reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas factions and for the immediate establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Some groups also called for a third intifada against Israel.

The recent upheavals and revolutions across the Arab world seem to serve as a significant impetus for the Palestinian activism.

The IDF is still unsure of how intense the planned events will be and whether they will spill out from areas under Palestinian control, but preparations are being made in the event that thousands of Palestinian civilians attempt to march toward Jewish settlements or the separation fence in the West Bank, or toward the border fence of the Gaza Strip.

Psychological training

To prevent such developments, the IDF is planning to halt training for many of the conscript units and deploy them near possible points of friction in the West Bank. Prior to their deployment, the units will undergo training on how to disperse demonstrations and also undergo "psychological preparation" for dealing with civilians.

Border Police units, which specialize in dispersing demonstrations, will also be significantly bolstered.

In the four years since the Second Lebanon War, the IDF has significantly cut down the deployment of conscript and reservists units in the West Bank, to allow for longer and more complex training than done in the past. This was in part possible because of the improved security situation in the West Bank, the transfer of security responsibility for Palestinian cities to the Palestinian Authority, and the assignment of Palestinian policemen to cover villages in the area.

The IDF hopes the Palestinian security forces will ensure that the demonstrations remain under control, but the Central Command is preparing for scenarios in which the PA security will not intervene and thousands of Palestinian civilians will try to move toward settlements or the separation fence.