It started out like a regular story: A family, a concerned mother and a curious little boy checking out his surroundings. But there’s nothing regular about the life of Palestinians in the occupied territories, and this story gradually turned into a nightmare. Last Thursday afternoon, in the West Bank village of Qaddum, a 7-year-old boy noticed an orange box covered in string and fabric, and ran to pick it up. His mother, who was with him, called to other family members to examine it first.
Two of them picked up the box, shook it, and heard noise. After another shake there was an explosion, and one of the relatives was lightly wounded in his hand and face. It turned out the box was an improvised explosive made by the Israel Defense Forces, and that there were at least three such devices planted by the army “to serve as a deterrent.” Why? Because Qaddum is the only village in the territories that still demonstrates against the occupation every week, which the army regards as “regular, violent disturbances over a number of years.”
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This hair-raising tale was revealed Wednesday by Haaretz reporters Hagar Shezaf and Yaniv Kubovich. Last Wednesday night soldiers from the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion planted at least three such improvised explosives along the side of a road that is used by residents and is very close to homes. The soldiers camouflaged the devices with stones, fabric and ammunition boxes and left them in the village primed to explode if anyone touched them.
The IDF spokesman’s response breaks records for dissembling. “After it was discovered that this could cause injury, the forces removed them from the area.” Are we talking about a new practice in the IDF’s repertoire in the territories? Who gave the go-ahead to place improvised explosives along roads that village residents, including children, frequent? Is there a military legal adviser anywhere who would approve such a thing? Why were live explosives left unsupervised? Who prepared them? Were they placed with the knowledge or approval of senior division commanders? The army refuses to answer.
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These questions must not be left open. Whether this is some kind of new procedure or a personal initiative “from the field,” it crosses a red line and it was lucky it didn’t end with serious casualties.
This phenomenon must be shut down and those responsible punished. The IDF must make sure there are no more such devices in the area, and that there are no other locations where orange boxes await curious children or their parents.
Following queries by Haaretz, the Judea and Samaria Division Commander, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Alaluf, launched an investigation. But bitter experience shows that we can’t expect much from such probes.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.