Tougher Rules of Engagement Lead to Terror, Officers Warn

Israel Defense Forces brigade commanders in the Gaza Strip earlier this week complained to Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon about the stricter rules of engagement under the tahadiya, the period of calm instilled by the Palestinians, warning they could lead to terror attacks against Israelis.

Since the tahadiya began at the end of January, the IDF altered its rules of engagement in the territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, easing harsh measures previously employed to counter terrorist infiltration threats. The army had declared special security zones (SSZ) in broad areas near settlements, along roads used by the Israeli populace, adjacent to the Philadelphi corridor on the Israel-Egypt border, and adjacent to the Green Line. Based on these regulations, all Palestinian traffic in these areas was barred, and soldiers were authorized to shoot at whoever entered them. Occasionally, even the warning fire procedure was shortened, making reasonable suspicion of a person being a terrorist sufficient enough for opening fire.

In this way, the IDF almost completely prevented infiltrations and killed many terrorists, but also hit many innocent Palestinians. After the number of violent incidents subsided, the army stopped enforcing the SSZ regime. Palestinians quickly caught on, and dozens of job seekers resumed infiltrating within the Green Line. Attempts have also been made to enter settlements, for, among other reasons, gathering intelligence for future terror attacks.

Since the end of January, there have been more than 40 instances in which unarmed infiltrators were caught after having crossed the perimeter fence. The army found that with the help of ladders and a method of disrupting the electronic alarm system along a section of the fence designed for crossing, the infiltrators had crossed the border fairly easily.

In their meeting with Ya'alon, the brigade commanders said the fact that only job seekers have been caught thus far does not negate the possibility that the next time it will be terrorists intending to attack one of the kibbutzim or moshavim near the Green Line. Under the new rules of engagement, one officer warned, the terrorists may be stopped only after they have started shooting.

A senior IDF Southern Command source said he understood the importance of the new rules in preventing Palestinian casualties, but expressed concern that the IDF is losing a deterrent that might encourage terrorists to risk nearing both the Green Line and settlements.