IDF SPOKESMAN – Information Branch
May 27, 1993
IDF OPERATIONS AGAINST ARMED FUGITIVES
The War Against Terrorism – Background
In the wake of the recent escalation in terrorist attacks, the Israeli security forces have taken vigorous measures to prevent and root out terrorism. In this war against terrorism, all of Israel’s security forces are taken part in a coordinated effort aimed primarily against the armed ‘fugitives’ (individuals who are known to have carried out terrorist attacks and who are still at large). The IDF draws a clear distinction between innocent local residents and those terrorists whose against whom IDF operations are directed. This distinction constitutes a cornerstone of IDF operational policy in the territories. Accordingly, the IDF has established procedures designed to reduce to an absolute minimum any harm to the person or property of the general population.
IDF Activity to Apprehend Wanted Fugitives
In the first five months of 1993, ten Israeli civilians, six members of the security forces, and 60 Arabs have been killed in the territories by Arab terrorists. The Palestinian terrorists who carried out these attacks are all armed and dangerous fugitives wanted by the security forces. These terrorist cells of wanted fugitives have also killed six Israeli civilians and four members of the security forces within Israel proper (pre-’67).
Due to these events, the Israeli government decided on March 30, 1993 to implement a closure of the territories. During the closure, the IDF has carried out a number of operations aimed a apprehending wanted fugitives and armed terrorists, using all legal means at its disposal to bring about their arrest. It is noteworthy that, to date, the IDF has apprehended approximately half of the remaining wanted fugitives. About 10 percent of them were killed in clashes IDF forces.
These fugitives represent the leading element in the hard-core terrorist activity. The distinction Israel makes between wanted terrorists and innocent residents is well-known to the fugitives, often making it difficult for the IDF to operate and ‘tying its hands’. The fugitives move among the local population and intermingle with it. They enlist local elements for assistance, often exploiting them and holding them hostage, forcing them to carry out their directives. In addition, the fugitives use local property and homes as if they were their own. Upon entering houses commandeered by fugitives, the IDF has, on more than one occasion, uncovered extensive arms caches including automatic weapons, pistols and explosive devices.
The IDF’s Operational Procedures
The IDF’s mode of operation against wanted terrorists is based, above all, on the most reliable information available regarding their whereabouts.
Before entering a house determined to be concealing fugitives, the IDF takes a wide range of precautions. The practice of dispersing the population in the immediate vicinity is comprised of several stages and designed to protect innocent bystanders from harm. Residents are called upon to leave their homes in ample time. Armed fugitives who agree to leave the building in question are allowed to do so unharmed. These procedures have been developed as the result of a continual learning process. Their purpose is to minimize the level of danger to IDF soldiers on the one hand, and to protect the lives of innocent local residents on the other.
Treatment of the Local Population
Most of the local residents are released after a short search, except for those who are questioned by the security forces for suspected cooperation with fugitives. Meals are provided to those held for questioning. In at least three cases, wanted fugitives were found to be among those detained.
Deviations from Procedures
The IDF gives serious consideration to any claims regarding mistreatment of local residents during the evacuation of their homes. Unnecessary humiliation or harassment of individuals whose homes have been turned into fugitive hide-outs is forbidden by IDF regulations. Obviously, any complaint or query in this regard will be investigated, and disciplinary measures will be taken against soldiers found to have acted improperly.
Damage Sustained to Homes of Local Residents
The IDF categorically denies accusations that one of the objectives of the IDF, is to punish those who have allowed fugitives to take refuge in their homes. Furthermore, the IDF also repudiates all allegation regarding the use of explosives in order to cause extensive damage to these homes. This is simply not the case. The IDF has no intention of punishing these victims.
All actions taken by the IDF in its pursuit of armed fugitives are based solely on military considerations, and are recognized and sanctioned by international law. These actions are carried out for the sole purpose of apprehending fugitives. Under no circumstances are they designed to punish the owners of the homes where the terrorists have taken refuge. The use of force is derived from the vital need to apprehend the fugitives hiding out in the homes of local residents, while preventing injury both to those living in these houses and to IDF soldiers. As a result, a wide range of measures are sometimes required, which may cause damage to property.
With regard to the charge that IDF soldiers use live ammunition and explosives in order to punish the home owners, it must be emphasized that such means are used only when entering houses occupied by armed terrorists.
In accordance with existing procedures in the territories, any resident who feels that he has sustained damage due to IDF actions can file a claim for compensation with the appropriate staff officer in the area. All filed claims will of course be investigated. In addition, Civil Administration staff and legal advisors in these areas have been instructed to approach, on their own initiative, home-owners whose property has been damaged, and to offer assistance. To date, however, despite all these provisions, very few claims for damage compensation have been submitted to the claims staff officer.
The use of military force to apprehend armed fugitives derives from the vital necessity to apprehend terrorists who are hiding out in private homes, while at the same time, to prevent casualties among IDF soldiers and local residents. For this reason, exceptional means have occasionally been used, and the resultant damage has been limited to property alone. Residents whose property has thus been damaged can apply to the Civil Administration for compensation.