The IDF continues to investigate two incidents in which IDF soldiers were forced to retreat from angry, stone-throwing mobs in the West Bank.
Both incidents took place within the past week. The first involved IDF soldiers in the city of Hebron who were forced to flee a crowd that included Palestinian police, and the second, which was caught on tape, involved IDF soldiers whose efforts to initially disperse a group of protestors in the small town of Kafr Qaddum backfired and forced them to return to their posts.
At a press briefing a senior IDF officer in the West Bank defended the army’s policy of restraint. “The policy has led to safer roads and fewer casualties. Had we fired indiscriminately during the many protests surrounding Operation Pillar of Defense and shot at every 13-year-old stone thrower, then we would have seen the operation spill over to the West Bank,” he said.
An initial inquiry into the Kafr Qaddum incident suggests that the soldiers failed to follow protocol by feeling and should have instead used crowd dispersal methods, Ynet reports.
A source also told Ynet that the two incidents are isolated events. He further added that the IDF has updated its guidelines for company commanders but that the rules of engagement are always under review.
The policy in the last decade has been that in life threatening situations, a soldier must decide himself whether to open fire at the suspect or fire warning shots.
“We had many cases, including in the past month, where soldiers opened fire at protesters who put their lives at risk and did the right thing,” the officer said.
Referring to the last two incidents he said, “The soldiers had the option of opening fire but felt they should not and in the Hebron case they did the right thing; they succeeded in preventing the hurling of stones at an Israeli community and no soldier was hurt.”
The officer explained that the policy of restraint has proven itself in that it has prevented retaliatory terrorist attacks and violent protests.
“All fire orders are based on the purity of arms. It is our duty to act proportionately and fire a weapon only as the last resort. We do not want to hurt noncombatants and fire indiscriminately.”