Main Points from IDF Briefing – 20 February 2002
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
1. Statement by GOC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan
The attack against the roadblock last night is one of the worst incidents in the current campaign. This was a clash with terrorists in which we lost six of our best soldiers and another serviceman was injured. I would like to convey condolences to the families, on behalf of the IDF and of the men and officers of the Central Command.
The war is continuing and our duty is to carry on with our mission.
The IDF Chief of General Staff’ has decided to appoint. General Tal Russo to lead up a team to investigate the incident and, together with the Command’s inquiry, we will draw the appropriate lessons.
The terrorists were able to approach the roadblock by exploiting the passage provided for Palestinians as humanitarian measure, and were able to surprise the soldiers and attack them.
From the preliminary investigation, we have learned that the soldiers were manning their position, yet nevertheless, the terrorists were able to hit them.
Following this escalation, several IDF units operated in villages and cities throughout the West Bank. In addition, IDF forces targeted armed gunman and terrorists. We hold the Palestinian Authority accountable, and they bear the responsibility.
The IDF will continue and even increase its activity against the terrorists. We are in the midst of a confrontation against terrorist and guerilla elements. We will realize our right of self-defense and provide security to the citizens of Israel.
2. Statement by the Commander of the West Bank Division, Brig. Gen. Gershon Yitzhak
My condolences and the condolences of the division’s men and officers. My thoughts are with the families. Yesterday at 21:00 2-3 terrorists attacked a position located on a road leading from Ramallah to Modi’in.
The compound was manned by 8 men, 4 soldiers were in position wearing helmets, their weapons loaded, with the safety on. The platoon leader who was in his quarters was in a hardened position. The terrorists exploited the passage meant for citizens and humanitarian needs and opened lethal fire from a short range at the soldiers at their posts. Then the terrorists ran, probably simultaneously, into the inner courtyard and the roadblock barrack and attacked the soldiers who were off-duty.
Presumably one of the soldiers and the platoon leader opened fire and wounded one of the terrorists. This however, was not enough. The squad leader, the unit’s commander and four other soldiers were killed, another soldier was injured, and a soldier standing guard on the roof was not hit. An AK47 assault- rifle belonging to the terrorists was left in the compound. The terrorists fled to Ramallah, a territory under complete Palestinian control, with two M16 assault-rifles.
During the night, IDF units carried out offensive initiated operations throughout the West Bank, as has been the case in the recent year and a half. The purpose of these operations is to interdict terrorism. In this context, 12 Palestinian policemen were killed. The Palestinian Police, which is responsible for preventing terrorism and violence, did nothing to prevent the passage of terrorists to Hamra (a Jewish community attacked on Feb. 6) and elsewhere.
In addition, 15 wanted terrorist operatives were arrested, as followed:
– 2 Hamas members were arrested and 4 weapons were confiscated by units of the Golani Brigade in Farha.
– 7 men involved in criminal and terrorist activity were arrested in Kafr Shiyouh, east of Halhol.
– 3 suspects were arrested in Um Kul Mouneh located south of Bethlehem.
– 2 were arrested in Ein Kinia, near Ein Arik.
Most of the operations are initiated, and are designed to thwart the activity of terrorists and criminal elements against the Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The details of the inquiry have not yet been conveyed to the family and so we cannot give a detailed account. However, we can provide a general account of what occurred:
– Adjacent to the main road lies a lane intended for pedestrians, who proceed at their own speed. Occasionally, individual pedestrians are detained for inspection and questioning in accordance with lists of names that we possess. Yesterday evening this lane was exploited by the terrorists. There are barriers on both sides of the road. Vehicles passage is forbidden, due to concerns about explosive charges and car bombs. Apparently, the terrorists exploited the lane, which allowed them to come into a close proximity to the soldiers, a few meters or even less. They drew their weapons and fired on the guards and then ran into the inner courtyard and the roadblock barrack.
3. Questions and Answers
Q: The Division Commander was asked if Israel is headed toward a guerilla war in the territories and what was the purpose of killing Palestinian Policemen.
Answer: We are not headed toward a guerilla war. We are dealing with violence and terrorism, and characteristics of guerilla warfare have been present for a year and a half.
We vary our operational methods, and we operate in an effective manner against terrorists.
As for the targeting of policemen – the violence is organized by someone who orchestrates these actions. This shall not be a one sided
war. We will react toward anyone in any place necessary. The purpose of the operation was to strike at anyone who is in any way involved in the dispatch of terrorists.
Q: The Division Commander was asked to give some account as to the organizational aspect of roadblocks with regard to the fact that roadblocks are repeatedly attacked and are turning in to an Achilles’ heel.
Answer: Every force undergoes preparations for its combat missions. We are in the midst of war and both sides are gathering information about each other. We are determined to continue the fight in order deny terrorists the ability to harm innocent civilians and IDF soldiers.
Q: The Division Commander was asked about the roadblock unit’s response to the attack:
Answer: Obviously, we were expecting it to end differently. The terrorists cynically exploited the pedestrian lane, and were thus able to surprise the soldiers who thought at first that they were innocent civilians returning to their homes.
The soldiers at the roadblocks are criticized day after day for their behavior toward Palestinian civilians, and yet here is the exact type of dilemma the soldiers face.
This particular roadblock was responsible for apprehending 150 terrorists, among them suicide bombers attempting to enter Israel.
Q: The GOC Central Command was asked regarding the use of roadblocks, and whether the entire issue be reevaluated.
Answer: We are constantly considering how to best be relevant and suit our routine procedures to operational needs. Regarding the use of roadblocks, there are places where we must use them. Roadblocks are a necessity. After we have thoroughly examined the details of this incident, we will consider how to act.
Q: Regarding involvement of the PA apparatus.
Answer: The entire subject is under examination. It is certain that Fatah and Tanzim members are carrying out their activities within the framework of the PA’s security apparatus. Occasionally we encounter terrorists who are connected with these security organizations.
Q: Regarding procedures at roadblocks.
Answer: Instructions given to the soldiers at roadblocks have been tightened, and we will implement all changes that are necessary.