Police, IDF prepare for 'Nakba' day, statehood bid riots

Outgoing police chief Cohen says disturbances may mark Palestinian day of mourning in May and UN vote on Palestinian state in September.

police inspector general David Cohen 311 (photo credit: Israel Police.)
police inspector general David Cohen 311
(photo credit: Israel Police.)
Large demonstrations and socalled peaceful marches towards 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 on May 15.
Several Palestinian groups have called for large demonstrations along Israel’s various borders in mid-May ahead of Nakba Day – “the day of the catastrophe” – which is the Palestinian commemoration of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
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A senior IDF officer said that the Southern Command was finalizing operational plans for the possibility that thousands of Gazans would march towards the border fence with Israel.
Other scenarios include massive demonstrations in the West Bank and simultaneous marches from several Palestinian cities towards nearby settlements or even Jerusalem.
“We are preparing for a large number of scenarios,” the officer said. “The Palestinians feel that they have legitimacy for these peaceful demonstrations, especially now following the creation of a new [Fatah-Hamas unity] government and ahead of the declaration of statehood.”
The demonstrations, if launched, would come just days before a massive protest flotilla sets out for the Gaza Strip. The Foreign Ministry is working to convince the international community to stop the flotilla, and the navy is preparing operational plans to stop it.
The IDF has begun establishing rapid response teams and is identifying vantage points throughout the West Bank that could be used to contain Palestinian demonstrations.
The concern is that in the event of several large simultaneous demonstrations, the IDF would not know how to contain the protests, leading to a high number of casualties. As a result, commanders have been instructed to prepare their soldiers mentally for how to respond to such scenarios.
In related news, the IDF is continuing to cooperate with Palestinian Authority security services, despite the murder of Ben-Yosef Livnat in Nablus on Sunday and the announcement of a Fatah- Hamas reconciliation agreement on Wednesday.
A source added that there was no immediate concern about sudden changes that would disrupt the close security cooperation currently in place between the IDF and PA security forces.
The two sides have built a good working relationship and have worked to combat Hamas activity in the West Bank.
On Thursday, OC Judea and Samaria Division Brig.-Gen.
Nitzan Alon met with his Palestinian counterparts and received an update on their investigation into the Livnat murder. IDF sources said that the PA had tapped its “military” intelligence apparatus to lead the investigation.
Former national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said Israel would have to wait to see if the unity agreement was a mere declaration or would become something practical.
“At the moment, this is an agreement on paper. If Hamas members join Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank, that will mark the end of PA-Israel security cooperation in the West Bank,” Eiland said.
“That can be said unequivocally. At the same time, there’s not a big chance that this will happen. Nor do I expect PA members to join Hamas forces in Gaza,” he said.
Eiland, who formerly headed the IDF’s Planning Branch, described the unity agreement as a convenient political maneuver that was of use to Fatah and Hamas, but expressed doubt that it had much substance. “I’d even describe this maneuver as being cynical,” he said.
In 2007, Hamas and Fatah broke off relations after Hamas gunmen staged a coup in the Gaza Strip, in which some Fatah security men were thrown off rooftops and others were executed with machine guns.