Video of IDF troops fleeing Palestinian rioters causes stir
Video shows Combat Engineering Corps soldiers retreating under shower of Palestinian stones • IDF: Soldiers have to balance restraint and respect for human rights with decisive action • Eli Yishai: Soldiers should make full use of their weapons.
Lilach Shoval and Efrat Forsher
Not a pretty picture. Screenshot of soldiers fleeing as Palestinians hurl stones in Kafr Qaddum village.
Just one day after a video surfaced on YouTube documenting Israel Defense Forces soldiers running away from an angry Palestinian mob in Hebron, a similar event was documented in Kafr Qaddum on Friday.
A Palestinian cameraman caught on tape and uploaded to the Internet a clip of what appears to be a reduced-size battalion of the Combat Engineering Corps trying to disperse a demonstration in Kafr Qaddum, located west of Nablus. In the video, the soldiers first approach the crowd to subdue it, but a few moments later they flee from the Palestinians after being showered by stones.
The soldiers approached again to try to disperse the demonstration but again were met with organized resistance in what looked like an ambush. The soldiers, armed with riot gear, fled again, trying to take cover behind a wall. The wall however did not provide sufficient cover, so the troops fled back to their base, with the Palestinians in hot pursuit, shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is great).
The incident has caused great embarrassment to the IDF, which is investigating why the soldiers did not act with more decisive force.
In the video, one also sees a number of other videographers as they attempt to document the event, wearing masks as a defense against the possible use of tear gas by soldiers. The camera also caught Palestinian demonstrators celebrating their success in causing the soldiers to flee.
In light of the recurrence of such incidents, Interior Minister Eli Yishai issued a letter on Monday to Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, stating that "Palestinian crowds pose a real threat to the safety of the forces" and adding that the threat could be "life threatening." The letter demanded an urgent cabinet discussion of the matter, with Yishai seeking official military guidelines on how soldiers should behave in such situations.
"The conclusion of these incidents without casualties is tantamount to a miracle, but we must not rely on this recurring in the future," Yishai added. "In my opinion, IDF soldiers should make full use of their weapons when they feel that their lives are in danger, and they must know that they will enjoy the full support and understanding of all institutions should they be forced to do so."
Kafr Qaddum is well-known to the security establishment, as every Friday there are serious disturbances in the area by young Palestinians attempting to provoke IDF soldiers. Last Friday, two soldiers and a border guard were injured in the demonstrations. The IDF is currently investigating whether the soldiers were injured in the conflict documented on the video or one of the other disturbances that took place simultaneously in the region.
One military source said on Sunday that the video aroused suspicion. "When one sees the video, one has to question what caused this behavior. It's true that the soldiers should show restraint and preserve human rights, but this does not mean they shouldn't act decisively. We need to find the right balance between the two right things and therefore the issue is being investigated."
Since Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip a couple weeks ago, terror activity in Judea and Samaria has increased, with an emphasis on disrupting order and popular terrorism including Molotov cocktails and tire burning.
The IDF Spokesperson's unit issued a statement: "The incident will be investigated by senior commanders in the field. ... Following the incident, the guidelines for dispersing violent demonstrations with determination and professionalism have been sharpened, applying operational and moral considerations with respect to restraint of power."