IDF soldiers prepare a drone for usage near the Gaza border, May 15th, 2018..
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Is there a battle going on within the IDF over its open fire rules on the Gaza border?
On Thursday, the media outlet 0404 reported that orders had come down allowing IDF soldiers to open fire on the border only in situations where they are being or about to be shot at.
Broadly speaking, soldiers can currently open fire at Palestinians’ knees if they violate a security zone near the border in a way that poses a potential threat to life or to breaking through the fence.
The report specifically said that firing on stone throwers and inciters was banned, though until now the open fire rules permitted firing on such persons in certain circumstances.
However, even in the report, the IDF spokesman contradicted the claims and said that there had been no change to the rules of engagement, while alluding to the possibility that in different circumstances the rules might be implemented differently.
If there was a change in instructions about implementation, it would not be the first time.
The government told the High Court of Justice back on April 30 – about a month into the ongoing border crisis in which nonviolent and violent Palestinians have mixed in approaching the border fence – that it had already modified its implementation of the open fire rules in light of the many Palestinian injuries.
Since then, the numbers of killed and injured Palestinians from the Friday altercations have gone both up and down, and it seems that the aggressiveness of the implementation of the open fire regulations have also gone up and down.
So it may very well be that there has been a chance to be more conservative in implementing the open fire rules in a series of shifts in both directions that have occurred periodically.
On the other hand, sources with knowledge of changes at the higher levels told The Jerusalem Post that there was no change at all at the high command level and that at most, possibly a particular commander or small number of commanders had given a briefing on open fire rules for particular circumstances, which had leaned more toward restraint.
It seems unlikely that any top-down broad policy change was made as the Post checked with multiple legal sources who would likely be involved with such changes and they all denied a major shift and were surprised by the story.
So there is a real chance that the report had blown one briefing given by one commander out of proportion, whose soldiers were irritated by the restrictive instructions and complained to the media.
But there is also a third possibility.
In 2016, the State Comptroller issued a blistering report about different positions and priorities between the IDF spokesman and IDF legal divisions about releasing information relating to probes and controversial issues.
So there could be different factions within the IDF, either between the legal and spokesman’s offices (which does not seem the case here) or between different commanders, who are fighting for their approach to the open fire rules.
Whatever the truth is, the official word seems to be projecting the message of no major change.
That means that at the top there is no current move to placate the International Criminal Court or other global critics over the open fire policy. Regardless of the source of internal IDF debate, this message, for good or for bad, may be the most important takeaway.
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