(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
For the past four years, the State of Israel and the IDF have been forced to confront an unprecedented series of terror attacks against Israeli targets. During this period of time, more than a thousand Israeli civilians and residents were killed and thousands more were wounded in more than 20,000 terror attacks.
The IDF has been operating against the Palestinian terror infrastructure during the past four years, as it will continue to do in the future, in order to thwart terror attacks and to protect Israeli civilians. One of the numerous methods used by the IDF in order to prevent terrorists from reaching their goals and carrying out attacks against Israelis is conducting security checks at crossing points that are located at the exits of Palestinian cities, and at other locations throughout the West Bank.
Relentless terror attacks are what led to the use of security checks.
The IDF policy in the West Bank is to differentiate between the Palestinian terror factions and the Palestinian civilian population which is not involved in terrorism. In accordance with this policy, the IDF is constantly examining methods to ease the restrictions on the civilian population. This policy is implemented at the security checkpoints, which do not serve as barriers but are used to check those crossing. Those who pose no threat or are not associated with terror have no problems passing through the security checks.
Over this past year, several changes have been decided upon, as well as a redefinition of the policy and perception of the security checks, which has been manifested in the following ways:
Removal of checkpoints:
In January 2004, there were 25 security checkpoints located in Judea and Samaria, at the exit of cities and at entry points into Israel. There were also 153 roadblocks throughout the area. The IDF has to date removed 13 of these checkpoints and an additional 87 roadblocks - more than half of the previously existing points.
Training of IDF soldiers serving at checkpoints:
During the past several years, the IDF has continued to develop and implement training programs for those soldiers serving at security crossings, in an effort to enable the soldiers to carry out their work in the most moral and respectful way possible.
The following are several of the programs that have been developed as a part of this effort:
1) Creation of the security crossings unit: This unit, headed by an officer holding the rank of colonel, operates at all the security crossings positioned along the security fence and in the Nablus area. The unit, meant to prevent the passage of terror factions from the Palestinian Authority into Israel while maintaining the security and quality of life of both the Israeli and Palestinian populations, has been operational for the past year. The Military Police who are stationed along the security fence for examination positions are trained in a unique crossing operator course to perform security checks using technological means such as: biometric identification posts, luggage transparency machines, and magnetic gates. Female police personnel are stationed at the crossings to examine the women wishing to cross.
The unit has uncovered over 2,000 attempts to smuggle wanted terrorists, explosives and explosive devices, illegal workers, false documentation and more. The creation of the unit has led to a faster, more efficient and more comfortable passage of Palestinian civilians through the crossings into Israel. The soldiers study spoken Arabic and meet with members of humanitarian organizations.
2) Specialized courses for commanders of crossing points: In these courses, the commanders are trained to deal with the various scenarios and situations that may arise at crossings. The courses include meetings with members of the DCO and the Red Cross and subsequent discussions with the representatives of these organizations.
3) Permanent positioning of an Arabic speaking DCO officer at all crossings.
As a result of this training, there has been a significant decrease in the complaints of Palestinian civilians to the Civil Administration humanitarian hotline regarding the security crossings.
Improvements in the technological and logistical aspects of the crossings:
The IDF has technologically enhanced the crossings in the West Bank in order to ease the conditions for the Palestinian population.
Among the improvements that have been implemented are:
1. Roofs have been installed above the entire length of the security checking lanes and crossing areas.
2. The infrastructure of the crossings has been expanded and improved, creating a larger work area and enhancing the appearance of the crossing.
3. Introducing advanced systems into the crossings; a computerized system for quick authorization, x-ray machines and metal detectors, which have both improved the quality of the check from both a security and an efficiency point of view.
4. Restrooms and drinking posts have been installed for those waiting to be checked.
5. Computerized electronic examination and authorization of I.D. documentation which shortens the waiting period.
6. Humanitarian points have been established to provide medical treatment for those waiting at security crossings.
The IDF's policy is to ease as much as possible the lives of the Palestinian population not involved in terror, and in accordance with the security situation, the IDF has decided upon the following easing of restrictions:
1. Allowing the passage of public transportation into the city of Nablus.
2. Cancellation of the age limit when entering or exiting the city of Nablus and the removal of the security check when entering the city.
3. Significant increase in the quota of Palestinian merchants who can leave the West Bank into Israel. As of today, 10,000 Palestinian merchants from the Judea and Samaria regions are permitted to cross into Israel. Some of these merchants were issued a BMC (businessman card) which allows for quick passage through the crossings.
4. 24 hour humanitarian hotline operated by the civil administration, which examines complaints as they are reported, and who operates with the forces in the field to find solutions for these problems.
Unfortunately, the security crossings continue to prove that they are necessary, and not a week goes by when attempts to smuggle wanted terrorists and weaponry are uncovered at the crossings.
Since the beginning of 2005, 389 Palestinians, among these potential suicide bombers, have been caught attempting to smuggle weaponry from the West Bank into Israel, wanted terrorists and those suspected of terror activities.
- Over the past two months (since the beginning of April), 25 Palestinians have been apprehended at crossing points, including:
- Two Palestinian youths who were apprehended when they attempted to carry out a terror attack using three pipe bombs on April 5, 2005 southwest of Nablus, near Har Grizim.
- A 14-year-old Palestinian youth who arrived at the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus, on May 22, 2005 with two pipe bombs strapped to his body and a lighter with which he intended to detonate the bombs at the soldiers at the crossing.
A Palestinian carrying an explosive belt concealed in a bag arrived at a security crossing near Beit Eiba on May 27, 2005. The belt was constructed of four pipe bombs and weighed 2 kg.