Soldiers stationed near the Gaza settlement of Netzarim may shoot to kill if they spot a Palestinian observing Israel Defense Forces activity via binoculars, according to new rules of engagement recently issued by the IDF for that area.
The new rules are apparently a response to the attack on Netzarim two weeks ago, in which three IDF soldiers, including two women, were killed. The subsequent investigation revealed that the two terrorists, one each from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, had conducted lengthy observations of IDF activity in the area before the attack. Indeed, a senior Islamic Jihad official said this week that the organization gathered intelligence on IDF activity in the area for three months before the attack. That is also why, immediately after the attack, the IDF razed three multistory buildings that had apparently served the Palestinians as lookout posts.
Similar rules of engagement are in place in other areas of the Gaza Strip that the IDF defines as high-risk, and this week, soldiers killed two Palestinians who were spotted observing IDF activity - one near the Kisufim Junction and one at the Sufa Junction. It later emerged that massive bombs had been planted at both sites, and that the dead men had been there to report on the soldiers' movements so that the bombs could be set off at the optimal time.
After a new batch of reservists who arrived in Netzarim this week was briefed on the orders, one complained to his commanders that this practice seemed trigger-happy. When the order was not changed, the reservist complained to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and ACRI's legal advisor, Dan Yakir, sent a letter of protest to the IDF Judge Advocate General. Yakir charged that the new order is blatantly illegal, since it permits "killing people even if they constitute no apparent risk."
Sources in the IDF's Southern Command acknowledged that the new rules are different from those in effect in most of Gaza, which permit shooting to kill only if an armed Palestinian enters a special security zone and behaves in a way that indicates intent to carry out an attack. However, they said, the Netzarim rules are in force in other "major war zones" in the Gaza Strip.
A senior army officer told Haaretz that "the new orders permit firing only at a terrorist who is observing, not at anyone holding a pair of binoculars. The soldiers have clear criteria for determining who is a terrorist."