Settler security chief: September infiltrators will be shot

IDF urged to clarify "open-fire" regulations during expected protests ahead of PA UN state bid.

September 9, 2011 01:34
3 minute read.
[illustrative photo]

Clashes settlers Palestinians IDF soldiers 311 R. (photo credit: Reuters/Nayef Hashlamoun)

Palestinians who try to force their way into West Bank settlements during the mass protests in favor of statehood anticipated for September 20 “will be shot,” chief settler security officer Shlomo Vaknin told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The protests are expected to accompany the Palestinian unilateral bid for recognition of statehood at the United Nations.

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There is no official date for the anticipated grassroots uprisings expected to accompany that bid, which are often referred to as the September 20 protests.

The IDF and settlement leaders are preparing for the possibility that in key hotspots, Palestinians overwhelmed by the emotions of the moment might try to march en masse against settlements with hopes of forcing their way inside.

“Anyone who breaks into a settlement is a clear and present danger” to those living there, a security source told the Post.

This statement is backed up by an opinion issued by the Attorney-General’s Office for Judea and Samaria, signed by its Eyal Elad, who is tasked with human rights issues regarding the IDF.

In the opinion dated August 21, Elad reiterated existing guidelines for when citizens working as security guards in the settlements can open fire.

“Those authorized to perform guard duty in Judea and Samaria are permitted to open fire against unarmed demonstrators who are threatening to infiltrate a settlement, if such an infiltration, under the circumstances, presents in the guard’s opinion an immediate and real life threatening danger,” he wrote.

The legal opinion, a copy of which was obtained by a number of media outlets including the Post, drew sharp criticism from both settler leaders and left-wing NGOs.

The problem, said Vaknin, is that these guidelines were meant for normative situations of danger in which a guard on duty might see a criminal or someone who might be a terrorist trying to break into the settlement or a home.

It doesn’t apply well to the situation that security guard might confront in the next few weeks, said Vaknin, who is the chief security officer for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

While the army will deploy forces through the West Bank, it is anticipated that there may be situations in which settlement security guards find themselves confronting Palestinian protesters.

The hope, said Vaknin, is that the guards won’t feel the need to shoot, and if they do, that it will be warning shots only.

But there remains a concern over what happens should a life-threatening situation arise.

The problem for settler leaders is not the permission granted for security guards to open fire, but rather the lack of clarity around when such authority applies.

The criteria for what constitutes a “life-threatening situation” are very subjective, Vaknin said.

Herzl Ben-Ari, who heads the Karnei Shomron Local Council, and has been an outspoken critic of the wording of rules about permission to open fire, said that it created an unnecessary risk of legal liability for guards, many of whom are young men who have recently married or fathered children.

They could shoot at demonstrators in a situation that appeared at the time to be life-threatening, only to find themselves facing serious legal charges the next day, said Ben-Ari.

He has urged the military to issue much clearer directives regarding what constitutes a life-threatening situation, and to explain how those directives should apply to crowds of Palestinians trying to force their way into a community.

Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, said that the “most problematic thing about the document is that it is convoluted and unclear. It leaves a very wide scope for individual interpretation of what constitutes a dangerous situation.

“Our fear is that some people will interpret these openfire regulations in a way that would lead to civilians being hurt,” she said.

But security officials said they felt that no changes needed to be made to the directive.

“The IDF has been preparing for the past 10 months for September 20. It’s our job to facilitate the security of Israeli civilians throughout the region, and that is what we intend to do,” an official said.

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