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Intel Failures, Gaps in Police Preparedness Marked 2021 Riots in Israel, Comptroller Finds

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A burnt vehicle is seen after violent confrontations in the city of Lod, Israel between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police, amid high tensions over hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants and tensions in Jerusalem May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The violence that broke out between Arab and Jewish Israelis last summer exposed intelligence failures and gaps in police preparedness, Israel’s state comptroller determined in an audit published Wednesday.

The report reviewed the response by Israeli security forces to inter-communal rioting that swept multiple Israeli cities in May 2021, amid hostilities between the Israeli military and Palestinian terrorist groups.

The IDF was engaged at the time in Operation Guardian of the Walls, striking more than 1,500 targets in the Gaza Strip in response to attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who jointly launched nearly 4,400 rockets at Israel. The 11-day conflict broke out after Israel failed to abide by the militants’ ultimatum to pull back from the Temple Mount and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

To this backdrop, simmering nationalist tensions boiled over in Israeli cities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations. Riots beginning on May 10, 2021 by Arab Israelis in Lod — where Jewish homes, synagogues, a school, hospital, and other public infrastructure were attacked — preceded days of unrest that extended to cities including Haifa, Acre, Ramle, and Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

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Three civilians were killed and hundreds injured during the violence, which also caused some 58 million Israeli shekels (about $17 million) in property damage, according to the comptroller’s report.

The audit found “deficiencies in police activities before and during the riots, as well as in police preparedness for multi-frontal civil disorders,” particularly in “mixed cities,” wrote Matanyahu Englman, state comptroller and ombudsman.

He pointed to the “significant weakness and inadequate preparedness of the Border Police reservist system,” as well as collaboration issues between Israel Police and the Shin Bet internal security service, “which significantly increased the intelligence gaps manifested while contending with” the rioting.

During the peak of the violence, between May 11-13, more than 32,000 calls were made to the police, approximately 2,836 of which received no response. More than 4,000 other calls were answered and documented, “but were not handled appropriately by the police,” the audit determined.

Englman questioned whether police units, particularly in mixed cities, would benefit from greater allocation of resources, considering “the constant need for reinforcement.”

In outlining recommendations, the comptroller called on the Israel Police and the Shin Bet to “optimize their activities in mixed cities routinely and improve their preparedness for extreme situations,” and on the State Attorney’s Office to “form a deterrent policy and apply civil procedures, especially against offenders in terror events and in hate and racist crimes.”

“We must restore the basic sense of security to the citizens of Israel,” Englman wrote.

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