Israeli Army Will Stop Nightly Raids on Palestinian Homes for 'Intel Mapping'

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Soldiers 'mapping' a house of a Palestinian in Nablus, in 2007.
Soldiers 'mapping' a house of a Palestinian in Nablus, in 2007.Credit: Nadav Weiman, courtesy of Breaking the Silence

The commander of the Israeli military's Central Command, Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, ordered that the army cease its intelligence-collecting raids on Palestinian homes in the West Bank, save for exceptional circumstances.

The process of "intelligence mapping," as it is known in IDF terminology, involves Israeli soldiers entering the homes of Palestinians each night who are not suspected of any offenses, in order to register the home's occupants and describe the building.

Yadai made this decision, which was first reported by the Kan public broadcaster, following security assessments and improvements of intelligence tools which allow the army to obtain this information without entering Palestinian homes. Yadai also decided that in exceptional cases, the army can use this measure, but only after receiving approval from the senior chain of command and in the event of a particular operational necessity.

Human rights groups have levied heavy criticism against these raids for years. In a report published last November by the rights groups Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights, they decried raids on Palestinian homes in general and "intelligence mapping" in particular.

As part of the report, they interviewed Palestinians, who described how nighttime raids impacted their lives and harmed their mental health. In addition to the practice of mapping, the report also focused on the army's raids on homes to carry out arrests and the search and seizure of West Bank buildings for military purposes.   

The report also includes interviews with 40 IDF soldiers and five officers, of which 18 testified to carrying out this practice. One soldier who did an intelligence raid in Hebron in 2008 was quoted saying: "I really remember that they asked [us] to do some kind of mapping, to photograph the people and photograph the residents. And I took pictures of people with my personal camera, and identity cards – collecting all the information. Afterwards, when I was asked what to do with this, I asked the officers, and they said, 'Listen, we have no idea.' I waited a few days, a week or so, and I erased the pictures." 

The human rights organizations planned to file a petition against the practice and corresponded with military officials during the plea's legal proceedings. On Tuesday night, they were notified of the decision to stop the practice "at this time and in accordance with the assessment of the current security situation."

Michael Sfard, an attorney representing the human rights organizations, said: "The military would not be able to cope with the mass of evidence we brought from both the Palestinian side and the soldiers' side about the true nature of the "mappings," which are not for the purpose of gathering intelligence but for training, intimidation and deterrence."

In March of last year, the groups filed a petition demanding that raids of Palestinian homes be subjected to judicial orders, since IDF officers can currently authorize the search of homes without judicial review.

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