IDF on high alert ahead of ‘September’ demonstrations

Palestinian Authority officials say they won’t be able to restrain the public if settler violence continues.

By
September 16, 2011 02:28
2 minute read.
Palestinian protest in Ramallah.

Palestinian rally 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The IDF was set to go on high alert on Friday throughout the West Bank amid concern that the so-called September demonstrations will begin ahead of the Palestinian Authority’s planned unilateral declaration of statehood at the United Nations next week.

IDF sources said that demonstrations were expected to erupt already this weekend at the Kalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem and in Hebron. Other potential hotspots are near the settlement of Karmei Tzur in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, near Rachel’s Tomb on the northern edge of Bethlehem and near the Palestinian town of Kaddum, between Kalkilya and Nablus.

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'Settler attacks raise West Bank tension ahead of UN'

Earlier this week, the IDF completed the deployment of several additional infantry battalions to the West Bank that have undergone special antiriot training ahead of the expected demonstrations. In addition, units were also deployed in the South near the border with the Gaza Strip and in the North to prevent border infiltrations from Syria and Lebanon.

Each of the six regional brigades in the Central Command have received two “skunks” – trucks with cannons that spray a foul-smelling liquid on rioters – and a number of “screams,” a device that emits penetrating bursts of sound that leave rioters dizzy and nauseated. These are in addition to standard riot gear such as rubber bullets, tear gas and protective equipment.

IDF assessments are that the Palestinian will work – at least in the beginning – to prevent the demonstrations from turning violent. Large demonstrations are scheduled to take place on Wednesday in several large Palestinian cities such as Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus.

Defense officials said on Thursday though that Palestinian officials have passed on messages to Israel that if settler attacks against Palestinians – which have been on the rise in recent weeks – continue, they would not be able to restrain the public.

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“Our two major concerns are that the demonstrations will turn violent or that the so-called ‘price tag’ attacks against Palestinians will escalate and ignite the territories,” one official said.

The army has held a number of large exercises in recent weeks aimed at preparing IDF units for how to contain the demonstrations without injuries.

“Casualties can lead to additional unrest and more demonstrations,” an IDF source explained. “The way to deal with these demonstrations is to know how to contain them and to prevent casualties at the same time.”

Terrorist groups are not expected to dramatically increase efforts to attack Israel over the coming weeks, but the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has voiced concern that if the demonstrations turn violent, Hamas and Islamic Jihad might join the fray.

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