The military’s Judea and Samaria Division, concerned by the frequency of Palestinian terrorists’ attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers, is taking steps to ensure that soldiers are aware of the dangers, a senior army source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
The source stressed that the recent murder of 20-year-old St.-Sgt. Tomer Hazan “has set off alarm bells” among commanders and raised concerns that soldiers – and Israeli civilians – might not be aware of the real risks associated with entering Area A of the Palestinian Authority. Hazan had been lured by Nidal Amar, a Palestinian colleague and co-worker at a Bat Yam restaurant, to a West Bank village where he was killed on September 20.
“Israelis enter Area A by the dozens every day,” the source said. “It’s a violation of the law and endangers the people entering. The excuses we hear are the same – they went to fix their cars, to shop, or they got lost – despite the big signs warning of the risks of entering. We take a grave view of this. People are risking their lives.”
Referring to the threat of kidnappings for gaining the release of Palestinian security prisoners and the precedent set by the 2006 kidnapping and 2011 release of Gilad Schalit, the source said: “At the end of the day, small incidents can turn into bigger strategic ones.”
Most Israelis who enter Area A return without authorities knowing about it, while a handful are caught by Palestinian Authority police and returned to Israel.
“We have thwarted more than 30 attempts to kidnap soldiers this year,” the army source said. “The feeling in the division is that the threat is high enough to continue being a serious concern. The division is coming up with creative ways to raise awareness among soldiers and civilians to ensure they do not enter Area A. Even if some have forgotten the Schalit kidnapping, I can assure you that brigade commanders and other senior officers have not.”
In the event of a future kidnapping, detailed plans are in place for immediate responses.
They are based on a two-pronged operational and intelligence response.
Despite the threats, Israel’s intelligence grasp of the West Bank sector remains solid, the source said, pointing out that it took security forces less than 24 hours to reach Nidal Amar at his home in Beit Amin near Kalkilya after the Hazan killing.