The Israel Defense Forces carries out dozens of raids on refugee camps, villages and neighborhoods in West Bank cities every week. The raids are seen in Israel as an essential part of the security routine.
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These raids are hardly reported in the media, unless they are lengthy — like the one in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp, near Hebron, on August 16. That camp’s residents interpreted the broad action as being military training for the soldiers — at the refugees’ expense. Less than a week later, the army raided workshops in other West Bank locations and, according to the IDF spokesman, seized 54 weapons, including 39 handguns.
The Palestinians use these weapons more against themselves — in clashes with Palestinian security forces and in family disputes — than they use them against Israeli citizens and soldiers. So Palestinian society itself has an interest in reducing the number of weapons on the street.
But the IDF’s rules of engagement regarding the use of live fire are extremely lenient. On Friday, soldiers killed an unarmed, 38-year-old man from the village of Silwad whom they encountered in broad daylight. They claimed he ran away, and that was enough for them to view him suspiciously and kill him.
The army’s use of firearms in raids is also permissive. As is to be expected, in some places Palestinian youths come out of their homes, unarmed, and confront the troops. As far as the Palestinian public is concerned, the youngsters are expressing a legitimate resistance to the occupation. In the eyes of the Israeli commanders and soldiers, this is a public disturbance. Each such raid results in the wounding, and sometimes killing, of people. At Al-Fawwar, the army — using live firearms — shot and killed an unarmed young man and wounded 32 others, mainly in the knees. In the Deheisheh refugee camp, where the army conducts weekly raids to arrest people and issue summonses, soldiers fired at youngsters. In less than two weeks they seriously wounded 15 of them, again in the knees.
The Shin Bet security service denies the statements made by residents of Deheisheh and Tekoa that its officers “promised” the young people there that they would “turn them all into cripples.” But the result is the same: Both in raids and during the quashing of demonstrations, the IDF immediately opens fire on unarmed civilians. In the last year or two, the IDF has permanently disabled more than 100 people.
Haaretz has obtained testimonies that soldiers also fired at people trying to rescue wounded people and at others who passed on the main road by chance and were not part of the demonstrations.
The IDF claims the raids are, among other things, a means of deterrence. But this “deterrence” is merely a provocation on the army’s part, which causes escalation and unnecessary injury, and casualties to the Palestinians. The army must stop this perverse practice, tighten its rules of engagement and must not use means that cause disability and death.