Police complete final riot drill before PA statehood bid

“Experience has shown that we have to be ready for a sudden outbreak of violence,” Israel police chief says.

September 19, 2011 03:10
3 minute read.
Border policemen near Ramallah

Border policemen near Ramallah_311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Police have completed a major drill to test riot-response capabilities ahead of the planned Palestinian statehood recognition bid at the UN.

Speaking at national headquarters in Jerusalem on Sunday, Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino said police would allow nonviolent rallies by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians under Israeli jurisdiction to go ahead, adding that there was no intelligence information indicating planned disturbances.

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“Experience has shown that we have to be ready for a sudden outbreak of violence,” he said. “This exercise was held to ensure that all systems are working. We tested various scenarios again and again. We’ll be happy not to use any of these measures, [but] the scenarios that were drilled were realistic.”

The police chief added that the terrorism threat had not changed over the past two weeks.

Cmdr. Nissim Mor, head of the Operations Branch and a former bomb squad officer, described the coming period as a “minefield without flags,” saying police needed to proceed with caution.

The number of specially trained riot police had gone up by around 50 percent, from 5,000 to 7,400, with an additional 1,500 officers on standby, Mor said.

The officers are assigned to 16 command and control centers across the country. Police have already beefed up their presence around Jerusalem.

Officers have been trained to deploy non-lethal riot response measures. To that end, 200,000 liters of “Skunk” liquid, which produces a foul smell and has been proven to be an effective yet harmless crowd dispersal means have been prepared, Mor said.

Police have identified four categories of mass events, ranging from peaceful demonstrations that do not require any response, to the most severe scenario of sustained disturbances involving the use of live fire by rioters. Set responses have been drawn up for each scenario.

Addressing the issue of far- Right “price tag” attacks on Palestinians and the IDF in the West Bank, Danino said he was highly concerned by the escalating number of such incidents and their growing severity.

He said he was not satisfied with the lack of indictments against “price tag” suspects, citing limitations on Judea and Samaria Police District forces in the complex arena of the West Bank. He noted, however, he had assembled a task force made up of elite officers to track down those behind the attacks.

“These acts are so dangerous and harmful on a national level,” Danino said. “They can result in an escalation, and this is the last thing the country needs.”

Also on Sunday, officials at the Public Security Ministry appeared to play down media reports about emergency police powers giving officers additional authority to deal with rioters.

According to the reports, emergency measures would include holding suspects detained after violent disturbances for 48 hours rather than 24 hours before having to bring them before a judge for a remand hearing, and allowing police to detain suspects not under arrest for nine hours instead of the current three.

“This is an internal document passed along to sources in the Justice Ministry for examination,” a source from the ministry told The Jerusalem Post. “There is a gap between the headlines and the substance.”

Police said the measures were being prepared as one of many tools to deal with the scenario of major disturbances, stressing that they would have be voted on and approved by the cabinet before police could use them.

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