|IDF Soldiers disperse Palestinian rioters in Hebron 390.(Photo by: Reuters)|
IDF sources defend restraint against rock throwers
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
Sources say document instructs soldiers not to open fire against rock throwers unless they identify immediate danger.
IDF sources defended the conduct of infantry soldiers caught up in rioting and
rock throwing in the West Bank last week in Hebron and Kadum.
soldiers employed riot dispersal means against a rock-throwing mob of 250
Palestinians before leaving the area, while in Kadum, soldiers retreated from a
crowd throwing a hail of rocks.
Responding to criticisms that the rules
of engagement for soldiers are unclear, and that soldiers are frightened to take
assertive action for fear of ending up in court, the sources dismissed the
charges, saying that a detailed document instructing soldiers on how to respond
to violent disturbances had been issued to field commanders in
“The document tells them not to open fire against rock throwers on
the one hand. On the other, if they see a massive attack forming, or a large
[concrete] block about to be thrown on top of a soldier, they can take action to
stop this. They need to identify an immediate danger before opening fire to
prevent it,” one source said.
“The soldiers in Hebron and Kadum didn’t
feel this danger. We expect soldiers to use their judgement... and where an
incident can be dealt with without Palestinian casualties, we expect this to be
the case, as a policy,” he added.
“They soldiers chose not to fire
because they felt they didn’t need to. In Hebron, a very small number of
soldiers managed to contain the incident, and prevent 250 rioters from hurling
rocks at the city’s Jewish neighborhood. Twenty Palestinians were hurt by riot
dispersal means,” the source stated.
Firing on legs of rock throwers was
also disproportionate, the source asserted, saying that “we don’t know where the
bullet can end up. It could cause casualties, and we could find ourselves facing
days of rioting.”
An IDF investigation into both incidents is
The March document on the rules of engagement was issued after
an earlier document on the same subject, issued by the IDF General Staff, had
confused soldiers with vague instructions and obscure legal terms.
replaced it with a more simple, clearer document, which contain examples
covering a range of situations,” the source said.
“Our duty is to act
proportionately. Live fire is the last means. We do not want to fire randomly at
a crowd or strike noncombatants.
And if we hit a combatant, we are
obligated to provide medical assistance,” he added.
“We obligate our
soldiers to think. If he feels his life is in danger, the rules allow him to
open fire, but he must go through a thinking process first.”
The IDF is
currently investigating a greater number of suspected cases involving live fire
where it should not have occurred, then suspected cases where soldiers failed to
open fire when they should have.
The rules of engagement describe
situations that represent clear and immediate threats to life, such as a man
running at a soldier with a knife, or a suspect aiming a firearm at troops, or
the hurling of a big rock at a soldier’s head from close
Close-range Molotov cocktails also fall under this
The document differentiates between immediate dangers, and
situations that could produce immediate dangers.
The IDF prefers that
field commanders issue orders during incidents, but allows the individual
soldier to make snap decisions when his life is threatened in quickly developing
situations, such as an impending Molotov cocktail attack.
denied that fear of prosecution was paralyzing soldiers and preventing them from
“We have a policy of containing disturbances with
restraint. It comes from an understanding that casualties will escalate the
situation. This has proven itself as the correct policy,” the source said.