Xinhua (Analysis)
September 8, 2011 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Some leaders among the Israeli settlement movement in the West Bank are concerned that existing open-fire orders for local civilian rapid-response teams may hobble their ability to respond effectively to possible attacks by Palestinians against their towns.

In recent weeks, senior Israeli civilian and army security officials have refreshed community security chiefs on protocol and procedures as a part of Operation "Summer Seeds."

The program includes methods for dealing with the prospect of Palestinian marches or riots against their towns later his month, when Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is likely to request the United Nations' recognition of statehood.

Palestinian leaders have threatened mass marches on Jewish settlements after such recognition, and military planners are ready for the prospect of masses of protestors trying to flood into settlements.

Eyal Elad, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Central Command's legal advisor, has signed off on a set of instructions and policies to be implemented if and when violence breaks out. It is entitled "Directives on opening fire for security officials in towns in Judea and Samaria in the event of unrest," according to Israel National News. Judea and Samaria are the Biblical names for the West Bank.

However, while the army is "holding an ongoing professional dialogue with elements in the settlement leadership," according to the IDF spokesman, some settler security chiefs said the rules of engagement are too vague.

Shlomo Vaknin, head of security coordination for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council), told Xinhua Thursday that "there are specific instructions to have a army unit and security crew on hand at places close to Palestinian villages," who would be the first line of defense against rioters.

However, "It's very hard to give responses to every possible situation," the document reads, according to Vaknin.

But, he warned, in any case his teams would "not allow Palestinians to cross our fences. Full stop."

"No matter what we do, it will look bad abroad," he acknowledged, if scenes resembling those of two recent days of cross-border infiltrations on the Syrian and Lebanese borders come to pass.

Close to a dozen protesters, reportedly Palestinian refugees, were shot and killed at several locations in attempts to rush the Israeli border. It remains unclear if the deaths came as a result of Israeli army fire, or from Lebanese and Syrian soldiers firing from behind the groups.

One security chief in a Jewish community south of Jerusalem told Xinhua last week that "my guys are forbidden from even exiting the community ... the rules of engagement will also be strictly enforced. Firing live ammunition is totally banned, not even (firing warning) shots in the air."

He did, however, note that he and other settlement security personnel had begun prepping their private security contractors and resident team volunteers to show a "heightened alertness."

He disputed recent reports, saying the army had provided some settlements with tear gas and stun grenades, and other riot dispersal gear to use in deterring assailants attempting to infiltrate their towns.

Part of the army's instructions include laying out two separate perimeter lines around the communities, many of which do not have security fences. Jewish residents in the security teams are allowed to use non-violent riot gear against anyone crossing the outer border. However, only soldiers would be allowed to use live fire in the event Palestinians cross the inner line and try to rush the fence.

The rules state that, "a resident fulfilling security duties in Judea and Samaria is not authorized to open fire against a suspect in a crime in order to arrest the individual, other than in cases of a threat to life or serious physical injury," the mayor of a settlement in the northern West Bank told Israel National News on Thursday.

"The upshot of this directive is that even if hundreds of Arabs invade a town and cause damage, residents will not be able to use their weapons to arrest them," Herzl Ben-Ari said, continuing. " Only if it appears that deaths are imminent will they be allowed to act. In other words, they will be able to riot freely, unless they actually threaten the lives of a resident."


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