Many senior IDF officers reject speculation that a third intifada could soon break out, while acknowledging a limited upsurge in Palestinian attacks throughout the West Bank.
Lt.-Col. Eyal Embon, commander of the Artillery Corps’ 411th Battalion, is stationed at an IDF base near Ramallah.
Palestinians often riot there, and the base itself came under attack on October 17 when a Palestinian driving a bulldozer smashed his way through the gate and tried to run down soldiers.
“I don’t think things are heating up. Riots occur on a weekly basis, regularly, usually on a Thursday night and Friday afternoons,” Embon told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend.
“Usually, I can tell it’s the same people who take part. They’re young guys, not members of the older population. The terror attacks are being carried out by lone-wolves,” he said. “I don’t think we’re headed toward an intifada. It’s the same crowd coming back every week. There are other Palestinians who are opposed to it, and want to live quietly.”
Embon’s battalion has been stationed in the West Bank for seven months, and its members have been dealing with riots in nearby Beitunya and in the Kalandiya area, as well as in the adjacent town of a-Ram, just north of Jerusalem’s Neveh Ya’acov neighborhood.
“We’re some sort of enclave inside all this,” he said.
“Many incidents break out on Thursday nights, from firebombings to rock-throwing, against us and the [Israeli] population we protect in this area,” Embon said.
Last week, soldiers shot and killed Yunis Obaidi, from Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, after he repeatedly tried to run over soldiers in Embon’s base.
In March 2009, Obaidi’s brother, construction worker Marei Radaydeh, tried to run over two policemen in a patrol car near the Malha Mall, on Menachem Begin Boulevard in southern Jerusalem, with a bulldozer. Police and an armed taxi driver killed him. The two officers were lightly wounded.
Embon noted that his base is located near a busy road near Kalandiya, with many vehicles passing through. Usually, drivers who mistakenly pull up at the base turn around.
Last week, “the tractor stood opposite the gate, unloaded its digger, and waited for someone to arrive. The regimental policeman [who guards the gate] came over to check him out,” Embon said.
“When the soldier was a few meters away, the tractor driver hit the gas and tried to run him over. He managed to escape. The tractor continued toward the gate, which is made out of iron and is very strong, but can’t withstand a tractor. The vehicle entered the gate, and closed in on a soldier, brushing against him and sending him flying. He then entered the base and turned into a parking lot, before smashing into a battalion truck,” the lieutenant-colonel said.
At this point, a munitions officer and two soldiers who were in a car exited their vehicle and aimed their weapons at the terrorist.
“They saw Arabic signs on the tractor and the damage, and realized he had come to kill,” Embon said. “A soldier and the munitions officer both opened fire, shooting the terrorist dead.”
In recent months, the 411th Battalion has played a central role in dispersing Palestinian rioters. In August, men from the unit formed part of a force that shot dead three rioters seeking to attack soldiers.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in the West Bank. But our central mission is to maintain battle readiness, to be prepared for war. In a conflict, we would fire artillery and provide assistance to other forces. We have to be ready for that, and to do that, we take part in exercises with other forces. We can leave our sector, take part in a drill, fire [artillery], and then come back,” Embon said.