RAMALLAH, August 30 (JMCC) - Israel's military is recruiting settlers in the occupied West Bank to participate in the efforts to defend against Palestinian clashes in September, when Palestinians seek statehood at the United Nations, reports Haaretz
The effort includes arming the settlers with tear gas and other hardware, as well as laying out rules for engaging Palestinians. Rights organizations have recorded numerous incidents when settlers have blocked West Bank roads or otherwise attacked Palestinians and their property.
The main message the army is issuing is that the demonstrations will be controlled and that the army has sufficient forces in order to deal with every disturbance. In order to be sure, there is also a decision, in principle, to equip the chief security officers of settlements with the means for dispersing demonstrations. These would include tear gas and stun grenades, although that would create a logistical problem as there’s a shortage of means for firing that type of ammunition.
Moreover, as part of the preparations, staff work was performed in which the commander of the platoon responsible for defending each settlement patrolled the area with the chief security officer of the settlement, in order to identify weak points.
The army is establishing two virtual lines for each of the settlements that are near a Palestinian village. The first line, if crossed by Palestinian demonstrators, will be met with tear gas and other means for dispersing crowds.
The second line is a “red line,” and if this one is crossed, the soldiers will be allowed to open fire at the legs of the demonstrators, as is also standard practice if the northern border is crossed.
Each map was approved by the regional brigade commander, and the IDF force that is deployed to the area will be ready to respond on the basis of the lines determined.
As part of the preparations, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi is planning to issue a message to the settlers. The settlers are pressing for the message to include specific instructions on how they should behave if threatened, such as in cases where the roads are blocked or settlements are breached by demonstrators.
There is concern at the IDF, and especially from the Military Advocate General, that any such instructions will be interpreted as rules of engagement by the settlers.