IDF seeks to maintain quiet in Judea and Samaria

The Lavi Battalion Commander provided details of the IDF (Zahal)’s efforts to manage the current period of unrest in the region

Date: 07/02/2013, 6:08 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

The Kfir Brigade’s Lavi Battalion has been at the forefront of responding to the recent period of violent demonstrations in the Judea and Samaria region. The battalion was also responsible for the arrest of a number of Hamas terror operatives in the days leading up to the recent escalation.

Hundreds of Palestinian protestors gathered on Saturday (February 2) in an attempt to construct illegal outposts on a hill below Mount Bracha in the Judea and Samaria region. The demonstration quickly turned violent when demonstrators began throwing stones at IDF (Zahal) soldiers and burning tires in order to create road blocks and stop traffic. “These were not local residents, but rather people who came from Ramallah, Bil’in and Nil’in for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc,” explained Lavi Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Arieh Shchori, in an interview with the IDF (Zahal) Website. 

The disturbances on Saturday signal a violent trend in demonstrations in the area. Though faced with increasing tensions involving often aggressive protesters, Lt. Col. Shchori is nonetheless confident in his unit’s ability to bring calm to the region.

“There are several factors that point to the emergence of the Palestinian violence, but we are prepared for the possibility of escalation,” he said. “We have been dealing with it until now, and are training every day to further improve and study our surroundings.”

The real challenge is in preventing injuries and casualties when civilians are involved. Lt. Col. Shchori explained that the IDF (Zahal) has guidelines for achieving calm without the use of force. “The first thing we do in order to prevent casualties is to avoid friction between the Palestinian demonstrators and the local Jewish residents,” he noted. “We are fully aware of the locations which are prone to friction and in the event of any changes, we will be ready for any scenario.”

Avoiding friction means preventing physical engagement between two opposing groups of demonstrators. Though many areas enjoy ongoing calm, this kind of friction still exists in some locations. According to Lt. Col. Shchori, “once the friction is not present, and we only have to deal with one side of the demonstration, controlling the crowd and avoiding civilian casualties is much easier.”

The Lavi Battalion knows its territory and how to act strategically by positioning itself in the right place at the right time. “The soldiers work very hard to improve efficiency in stopping violence as fast as they can,” Lt. Col. Schori noted.

Lt. Col. Schori referred to a recent incident, in which a demolition charge was thrown at an IDF (Zahal) post, as an example. “The force reacted quickly and arrested the perpetrators,” he recounted. “This sort of swift reaction creates a deterrent force and causes people with similar intentions to think twice before repeating such an act of violence.”
This past Saturday demonstrated again the efficiency with which IDF (Zahal) soldiers deal with delicate situations, without resorting to the use of live ammunition.

“We have reiterated our instructions to avoid firing shots, and injuring demonstrators at all costs. On Saturday, for instance, not one single casualty was suffered, and not one single shot – not even rubber bullets – fired,” said Lt. Col. Shchori, the only person in the battalion who is able to authorize the use of live fire.

Lt. Col. Shchori is determined to continue to maintain stability in the region, and achieve enduring calm. “Ultimately, it’s in no one’s interest to have innocent civilians hurt, this would just further destabilize the region. On the contrary, we would like to ensure the safety of everyone involved to the point where we even risk our own lives,” he concluded.