IDF Readies for More Border Infiltration Ahead of Upcoming Protests

Israel Defense Forces plans to boost troop numbers on three fronts, as Palestinian organizations announce intention to repeat Nakba Day demonstrations.

All three of the regional general command sectors of the Israel Defense Forces have geared up in advance of Palestinian plans to demonstrate and attempt to cross border fences on Sunday to mark the 44th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1967 Six-Day War.

Forces will be reinforced on the northern border and in the West Bank and special emphasis will be placed on field intelligence.

nakba - Yaron Kaminsky - May 15 2011
Yaron Kaminsky

Palestinian organizations have announced plans to repeat last month's Nakba Day demonstrations, an Arabic reference to the catastrophe that some Arabs associate with the founding of Israel in 1948. On that day last month, hundreds of Palestinians crossed the Syrian border with the Golan Heights and many more massed on the Lebanese border.

The IDF is also drawing lessons from last month's events, which included the breach of the border fence near Majdal Shams by about 180 Palestinians and the shooting deaths of at least four civilians by the IDF.

The border fence near Majdal Shams has been repaired and strengthened with additional barbed wire, supplemented by an observation post and intelligence arrangements.

The length of the Syrian and Lebanese border will be reinforced over the weekend with troops, particularly in areas where the potential for friction is thought likely. Additional forces will be on standby to be sent to the site of confrontations if they develop.

Although troops will be equipped with non-lethal crowd dispersal equipment, sources in the IDF Northern Command have said that the prior stance remains in effect, that any attempt to breach the border fence is considered an act of violence prompting live IDF fire in response, initially in the air and then at the intruders' legs.

Although Nakba Day events passed relatively quietly on the West Bank, the IDF Central Command will also reinforce its presence, but to a lesser extent than the five battalions that were added then.

Many fewer West Bank Arabs turned out to demonstrate for Nakba Day than the IDF anticipated. In addition, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank also attempted to head off efforts by demonstrators to confront IDF troops.

Mass disturbances

Right-wing Knesset members yesterday asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that protection of Jewish settlers be stepped up following intelligence information that Palestinians intend to disturb the peace on a massive scale on Sunday.

Among their demands was that roadblocks that had been removed be reinstalled and that settlements be provided with crowd dispersal equipment.

The IDF Southern Command has said sufficient troop levels are deployed to head off efforts to breach the border fence and emphasis will concentrate on intelligence.

Sources at the command noted that Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip have acted in many instances to restrain crowds and have tried not to allow isolated incidents to spiral out of control.

Special efforts will be made on all fronts to gather information in real time through lookout points and from the air.