IDF Counter-Terrorist Operations in Balata and Jenin
Background Information

(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

March 2002

1. Main points of Briefing by Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Gershon, Commander of the West Bank Division, 1 March 2002

The goal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations in the Jenin and Balata refugee camps is to make clear to all that there is not

now, nor will there ever be any safe haven for terrorists and their handlers.

Our intention is to search out and destroy the terrorist infrastructure in the refugee camps.

As of today (1 March), one soldier has been killed, Staff Sergeant Chaim Bachar, who served in a reconnaissance unit, and five soldiers have been lightly injured. However, our forces have found land mines, bombs and a few weapons. In addition, several fugitives wanted by the General Security Service were arrested.

At least 20 armed individuals were killed, and dozens were injured.

It goes without saying that were it not for this operation, the explosives discovered would have been detonated against Israeli citizens.

This has been one of the most difficult operations we have known during the course of the last year and a half’s confrontation.

It is important to emphasize that many terrorist attacks originated from Balata, such as the one in Hadera, in the coffee house in Kiryat Mozkin, in the "Sbarro" pizzeria in Jerusalem, and many others, in which dozens of Israeli civilians were killed.

The entry of IDF units into the refugee camps was for a defined purpose – to make clear to the Palestinians that there is nowhere beyond the reach of the IDF.

After we will depart from these areas, which have served as terrorist bases, we will continue to make sure that no new terror infrastructure will be reestablished in these areas.

We are forced to undertake this operation, since the Palestinian Authority does not today, nor has it in the past, fulfilled its responsibility to confront terrorism.

We must view the IDF operation in larger context. There was no intention to arrest specific operatives, but rather to make clear that the IDF is capable of operating anywhere it wants, and is able to expose terrorist infrastructures and bomb manufacturing sites wherever they may be.

Had we not been here, it is clear that the explosive charges used against our forces during the operation would have eventually been used against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

We will continue our defensive and offensive operations, as we deem appropriate, in light of our assessment of the situation.

We have more than enough forces in the area of Judea and Samaria, and complete freedom of action, in order to maintain control of the situation.

The mere existence of these operations is also of great value in itself. Through them, we have exposed at the location where the Kassam rockets were produced, and if we will find any such rockets – we will know how to deal with them.

It is important to clarify that this operation is not directed against the civilian population uninvolved in terrorism. We have expending every effort in order to avoid harming civilians.

Currently, civilian casualties in this operation have been kept to a minimum, yet they are impossible to completely prevent, since the terrorist groups in these areas exploit the population.

We are conducting our operations on the basis of intelligence information. For a long while we refrained from entering these areas. However, due to the countless terrorist attacks originating from these areas, and the ineffectiveness of the PA security forces in dealing with them, we have chosen this time to focus on these two refugee camps.

We are involved in military operations aimed at minimizing the achievements of the terrorists. All of our forces in Judea and Samaria are doing sacred work — saving lives. So far, the activities of the Paratroop Brigade, the Golani Brigade and other forces, is most impressive, in that they have been successful in both minimizing casualties to themselves, and preventing harm to the innocent civilian population.

2. Main Points of Briefing by Colonel Aviv Kochavi, Commander of the Paratroop Brigade, 2 March 2002

First, I would like to express my condolences to the family of the fallen soldier, Staff Sergeant Chaim Bachar.

In the past few years, and especially in the recent past, the majority of terrorist activities have emanated from the incubator known as the Balata refugee camp. The camp has turned into a weapons manufacturing depot, and a point of departure for terrorists, mostly from the Hamas and Fatah, on their way to carry out their attacks. For this reason, the IDF operations focused on this area.

The mission of our forces was to strike at the terrorist infrastructure and to arrest wanted terrorists. The preparations for the operation were intensive and included briefings on preventing harm to innocent civilians and minimizing damage to property.

Units of the Nahal Brigade, the Paratroop Brigade, the Armor and Engineering Corps, the Border Police and various special forces carried out the operation. The force entered the camp Wednesday night, after observation and covering units surrounded the objective. Some of the units that entered were concealed while others were not.

Around 2:00 AM, exchanges of fire broke out in the camp. Small arms fire was directed towards IDF units and explosives devices were detonated against them.

In order to minimize casualties to IDF soldiers and innocent civilians, something that could have happened while moving between buildings, the forces navigated from house to house, by creating openings in the buildings’ walls and passing through them. In this manner the forces prevented unnecessary damage to the structures.

During the operation, IDF forces discovered a laboratory for the production of "Kassam" artillery rockets, six uncompleted rockets, one rocket ready for launching, weapons, bombs and chemical materials for bomb production. The forces also found a vehicle containing seven explosive vests.

The forces were witness to a very deliberate and grave phenomenon. The Palestinians exploited ambulances in order to conceal armed individuals. The forces witnessed at least twenty such incidents of armed Palestinians entering ambulances, and some of them were documented. They did not open fire on the ambulances, out of a concern that innocent injured civilians may also be inside.

It’s important to note that the prevention of harm to civilians was a key consideration in the execution of the operation.

This operation proved that terrorism, wherever it may be, will be exposed and dealt with.

3. Main Points of Briefing by Col. Moshe Tamir, Commander of the Golani Brigade, 2 March 2002

During the IDF operation in Jenin, approximately 20 terrorists were killed and dozens of armed operatives were injured.

Large quantities of small arms, leaflets and propaganda material were exposed seized during the operation. The main objective of the IDF forces’ activity in Jenin was to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure inside the camp and to neutralize the armed terrorists operating in the area. During one of the clashes, a senior Hamas commander was hit.

The terrorist infrastructure in the area was known and familiar, and it was on the basis of this intelligence that our forces operated.

The IDF activity in Jenin began at first with an encirclement and seizure of commanding terrain around the city, prior to the entry of forces.

At first, there was some resistance, which diminished faster than we had expected. In the beginning of the operation, around eight Palestinian policemen who opened fire against our forces were killed.

As an initial step of the mission, a curfew was enforced.

Throughout Friday and Saturday morning, we conducted searches of the buildings in the area. During the course of these searches, children abandoned by their fleeing parents, were discovered in some of the buildings.

According to the checks we conducted, we have no knowledge of any harm coming to any innocent civilians. Our control of the camp was complete.

Most of our forces have already departed Jenin but some Golani soldiers remain in the camp.

I would like to express my deepest sorrow and pain over the death of the IDF soldier who was killed by a Palestinian sniper, and convey my sympathies to his family.

   
 IDF Counter-Terrorist Operations in Balata and Jenin-Background Information-2-Mar-2002
 IDF Counter-Terrorist Operations in Balata and Jenin-Background Information-2-Mar-2002
IDF Spokesman Communiques – March 1-2, 2002
 IDF Counter-Terrorist Operations in Balata and Jenin-Background Information-2-Mar-2002
IDF Soldier Killed in Counter-Terrorism Operation – IDF Spokesman, 28 Feb 2002