Although the IDF is working hard to disrupt the arms flow in areas of Hebron,
overall the city remains heavily armed, and there is an elevated risk of armed
terror attacks, an intelligence officer from the Givati Brigade’s Rotem
Battalion told The Jerusalem Post this week.
Last Friday, the Rotem
Battalion, which is stationed in the area, seized a large ammunition cache
during the arrest of two Palestinian security suspects in Hebron.
the seized weapons were sub-machine guns that the army called “Carl Gustav”
firearms, which date back to World War II; handguns; 2,000 rounds of ammunition;
gun magazines; and three telescope sniper rifles.
In terms of quantity,
the seizure represents a small drop in the bucket, and the Hebron area is filled
with arms of all types, the intelligence officer, Lt. “R,” told the
He said the type of submachine guns seized in the raid had been in
the West Bank for over a decade, and that Palestinian security agencies had used
them before switching to Kalashnikovs and M-16s. The older firearms ended up on
the criminal and terrorist black market.
“Other weapons move into Judea
and Samaria from Jordan, and from Israel,” he said.
On a daily basis, the
Rotem Battalion looks for weapons among Palestinians at checkpoints and in
“We assume that the people who wander around, or who are
arrested by the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and police often have
weapons. Three months ago, we found a sub-machine gun under a driver’s
chair in a vehicle stopped on Route 60. At night, you can hear shots fired at
weddings. There are lots of indications from the intelligence world that this
area is heavily armed,” Lt. R said.
The battalion’s aim is to ensure that
the weapons are not directed at Israeli civilians who come to pray at the Cave
of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or used to kill soldiers, as occurred in September
when a soldier guarding the city’s Jewish quarter was shot dead at long-range by
a terrorist who had a sniper rifle.
“There’s a huge quantity of arms in
Hebron. They are sold by arms dealers to terror organizations, and to
clans. They’re used in terror attacks, and in armed feuds between
Palestinian clans,” Lt. R added.
Hebron is a densely populated area, and
the number of Israeli security forces in the sector is relatively small compared
to the size of the local population, he added. With security forces focused
around the Jewish Quarter and Kiryat Arba, he noted, “you can’t get to the whole
of Hebron, and I’m not sure this would be the smartest thing to try from a
Lt. R’s job is to act as a direct link between
Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police on one side, and the
infantry battalion carrying out daily security missions on the other.
work with the intelligence agencies daily,” he said.
“Our techniques have
improved recently, and we’re seeing the results, but I can’t go into further
He added, though, that “we feel there are improved
capabilities, and more weapons have been captured.” Explosives are also on the
IDF’s radar in Hebron, and raids have uncovered suicide bomb vests, pipe bombs,
and a variety of improvised explosives.
The latter “are very easy to put
together,” Lt. R said, adding that amateur workshops in yards were sufficient
for the job.
“They can be used by rioters, who are not treated as Hamas
terrorists bent on killing civilians or soldiers, but who can nevertheless throw
an explosive device at the IDF,” he said. “These incidents occur a lot. A
Molotov cocktail can easily kill a soldier.”
The past two-and-a-half
months have seen an unmistakable rise in violent incidents in the Hebron area,
and Lt. R said the soldiers of the battalion had been instructed to be on high
“The chances of being attacked with a pipe bomb or a firebomb are
higher now. In Hebron, every soldier can be targeted from 2,000 firing
positions,” he said. “We’re briefing the soldiers to give them an opportunity to
deal better with the risks they face.”