IDF reinforcing W. Bank troops ahead of 'Nakba Day'

In run-up to May 15, which many Palestinians call "Catastrophe Day," IDF adds troops to counter any violence at expected demonstrations.

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May 11, 2011 13:51
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Bibi netanyahu. (photo credit: JPost Staff)

 
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The army began beefing up it forces in the West Bank on Wednesday, ahead of riots that the defense establishment fears will break out ahead of Nakba Day on Sunday.

Several Palestinian groups have called for large demonstrations along the country’s borders in mid-May ahead of Nakba Day – “the day of the catastrophe” – when Palestinian commemoration of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Expectations are that the protests will start on Friday.

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On Wednesday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz toured the West Bank with OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi and met with brigade commanders to review preparations for the expected protests. The increase in forces is the largest in the West Bank in more than three years.

Gantz told commanders that while intelligence assessments were that the demonstrations would not escalate into extreme violence, it was necessary to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

On Wednesday, IDF regional brigade commanders met with their Palestinian counterparts to discuss ways to contain the demonstrations.

Large demonstrations and so-called peaceful marches toward the Gaza Strip security barrier and IDF checkpoints in the West Bank are some of the scenarios the defense establishment is preparing for, amid predictions that massive civil disturbances will break out in the Palestinian territories.



The demonstrations would come just weeks before a large protest flotilla sets out for Gaza. The Foreign Ministry is working to convince the international community to stop the flotilla, and the navy is preparing operational plans to prevent it from reaching the Strip.

“We are preparing for a wide-range of scenarios including extreme ones such as an attempt to start a third intifada,” Col. Avi Gil, commander of the Efraim Regional Brigade, said on Wednesday.

“We are assessing the situation and preparing soldiers for the different types of incidents they will encounter.”

The IDF has begun establishing rapid response teams and is identifying vantage points throughout the West Bank that could be used to contain demonstrations.

Expected hotspots include the Kalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem, near Ofer Prison off Road 443 northwest of the capital, and in Nablus, Tulkarm and Ramallah.

Large forces will be deployed near these places to contain the protests, which are expected to include stone-throwing but not live fire.

The concern is that in the event of several large simultaneous demonstrations, the IDF would not be able to contain them, possibly leading to many casualties. Commanders have been ordered to prepare their soldiers mentally for how to respond to such scenarios.

The Israel Police was scheduled to hold a series of assessments on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Nakba Day and to announce security measures in the coming days. The Jerusalem Police is considering restricting the number of Palestinians it allows to attend Friday prayers at the Temple Mount, or alternatively to prevent Palestinians men aged under 40 from participating.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were making preparations “in full cooperation with the IDF and the Border Police, with an emphasis on Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories, and the north of Israel.”

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