IDF Spokesperson - 14 October 2000
The disturbances that put the region in turmoil over the last two weeks
began on the eve of the Jewish New Year.IDF Spokesperson : The Violence in the Territories - 29 September - 13 October 2000
IDF Spokesperson - 14 October 2000
The disturbances that put the region in turmoil over the last two weeks
began on the eve of the Jewish New Year. On Friday, 29 September,
Palestinian rioting began on the Temple Mount. Following Friday morning
prayers, Palestinians attacked Israeli police with rocks and firebombs,
compelling the police to forcibly disperse the crowd. Dozens of Israeli
police were injured, seven Palestinians were killed and scores of others
This incident sparked massive disturbances throughout the territories, as
well as among Moslem Arabs within Israel, under the slogan of "saving" the
Al Aksa mosque.
The Palestinians claim that the disturbances were triggered by a visit by
Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Haram e-Sharif, also known as the Temple
Mount, on 28 September. This visit, according to Palestinians claims, was a
provocation. However, before this visit there had been a marked rise in
tensions. These tensions had previously manifested themselves in attacks on
Israelis for several days.
Actually, the root causes of underlying hatred, dissatisfaction and
frustration can be traced back for a much longer period of time. Over the
months preceding the disturbances, there was a growing sense of frustration
among the Palestinian public, a sense exacerbated by an extended period of
economic and political stagnation. Particularly disgruntled were the
grassroots members of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization and a paramilitary
subgroup within Fatah, known as the Tanzim. These groups felt they were not
receiving adequate treatment from Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
That is to say, they were not included in the Palestinian security apparatus
and were not given positions within the Palestinian Authority.
Following the Camp David talks, when the Palestinian delegation presented
its uncompromising position on final status issues, the position of the
Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis its public became even more untenable; the
Palestinian people saw neither a final status agreement nor any improvement
in their day to day lives.
Upon this backdrop, a Palestinian ambush took place on 27 September against
an IDF patrol at the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza District. An Israeli
soldier was killed in the incident. The next day another ambush was
launched against an IDF patrol, but no one was injured. In fact, throughout
the month of September, there had been warnings by the IDF's Southern
Command regarding a deterioration in the security cooperation with the
Palestinians, especially at the Netzarim Junction. This location later
served as a focal point of heavy fighting between IDF soldiers and
Palestinian gunmen, including IDF soldiers coming under heavy fire from two
adjacent buildings overlooking the junction. On 29 September, a Palestinian
policeman on a joint Israeli/Palestinian patrol in Kalkilya opened fire
without provocation and for no particular reason on his Israeli
counterparts, killing an Israeli border policeman.
Following the 29 September disturbances on the Temple Mount, and due to
mounting Palestinian casualties, disturbances quickly spread throughout the
West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Arab towns within Israel (such internal
incidents are handled by the Israel Police). This recent outburst of
violence is the worst the territories have known since the beginning of the
peace process. It represents a blatant and fundamental violation of the
Oslo Agreement, in which the Palestinian Authority undertook to prevent
violence in areas under its control.
An especially severe occurrence during these disturbances was the rampant
use of automatic weapons by the Palestinians. This includes the use of
weapons held illegally, ones that the Palestinian Authority pledged to
collect as part of their agreements with Israel. In addition, weapons
issued to the Palestinian police by Israel were used in attacks. These
weapons were meant to assist in keeping public order and not to attack
Israel. In a number of cases, Palestinian gunners fired automatic weapons
directly into Jewish civilian areas.
Almost as blatant in undermining of the peace agreement in letter and in
spirit was the relentless incitement to violence against Israel in the
Palestinian media. The Palestinian media has made great use of
disinformation to incite its populace to violence.
Repeated agreements and understandings to stop the violence were broken by
the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat met with Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S.
Secretary of State Madeline Albright in Paris, where the Palestinian leader
committed himself to implementing a cease fire - but this was not done.
Almost daily, understandings were reached between Israeli and Palestinian
commanders in various sectors - but these were not upheld by the Palestinian
side. For example, OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia announced on
Friday, 6 October, that a cease fire had been reached. By that evening, the
Palestinians denied any such understanding.
Israeli settlements were subject to unprecedented levels of Palestinian
gunfire. These attacks disrupted access to many Jewish villages, frequently
forcing the IDF to block off main routes to Israeli traffic for their own
During the course of the disturbances, 12 Jewish settlements came under
direct Palestinian gunfire. In Psagot, near Ramallah, there were times
during the day and night when residents were ordered indoors so as to avoid
causalities. Efrat, Hebron, Rachel's Tomb north of Bethlehem and Joseph's
Tomb (which was later to become a main battleground) in Nablus came under
fire. In Gaza, Palestinian mobs attacked the IDF outpost at the Netzarim
Junction, where throughout the last month there had been a continuing
deterioration in the security situation. Food and supplies had to be
airlifted into the settlement of Netzarim itself. Other Gaza strip
settlements that came under fire included Dugit, Morag, Neveh Dekalim, Kfar
Darom, Katif, as well as the Gush Katif District Coordination Office (DCO)
in violation of the Oslo Accords.
The overall violence has continued more or less unabated for two weeks. In
numerous cases (such as in the Netzarim Junction on 30 September and 2
October), Palestinian police actively participated in firing on IDF
soldiers. Another characteristic of Palestinian "weapons" employed in the
attacks has been the cynical use of women and children placed among the
rioters, exposing them to potentially life threatening situations, thereby
compromising Israel's image. A blatant example occurred on 1 October, when
a Palestinian boy and his father were caught in a crossfire between Israeli
soldiers and Palestinian gunmen. Unfortunately, the boy was killed in the
exchange of fire.
Despite these events, the IDF employed maximal restraint. Standing IDF
orders stipulate that the use of fire is called for only when fired upon, or
in life-threatening situations. Furthermore, despite the repeated attacks,
IDF forces remained stationary within their defensive positions. It must be
stressed that under the agreements, Israeli forces are primarily located
outside of Palestinian populated areas. The Palestinians (civilians and
police) are purposely seeking and engaging Israeli soldiers and border
police who are maintaining defensive positions within their compounds.
This passive approach was employed by the IDF during the first two weeks of
hostilities, with the aim of not escalating violence. Only following an
upsurge in violence which spread into Israel on 10 October, did the IDF
choose to adopt a more active policy. In addition, during the first ten
days of violence the IDF did not impose a closure or other types of
restrictive measures on residents of the Palestinian Authority. This was
done in an effort to allow the Palestinians to continue to earn their living
in as normal a manner as possible and so as not to create further pressures
on them. Following the flare-up of violence, on 9 - 10 October, the closure
of the territories (which takes place annually on the Jewish holiday of Yom
Kippur) was extended and Palestinian villages were for all practical
purposes sealed off. This may have contributed to the reduction in tensions
that was felt on 10 October.
One of the most disturbing incidents, one which seriously undermines any
remaining Palestinian credibility, was what took place at Joseph's Tomb in
Nablus. The tomb is a Jewish holy site and, as stipulated in the Oslo
Accords, is under Israeli control. With the outbreak of violence, the Tomb
compound came under heavy Palestinian fire. An Israeli border policeman was
wounded and due to Palestinian fire he could not be evacuated, eventually
bleeding to death at the site.
As the situation became more severe, on 7 October the IDF decided to
evacuate Joseph's Tomb. The Palestinian police in Nablus promised they
would guard the site. Instead, when the IDF forces left, a Palestinian mob
ransacked and burned the compound as the Palestinian police looked on. The
following day, the Palestinians began to rebuild the site - as a mosque.
Hilel Lieberman rabbi who lectured at the Yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb was later
killed as he approached the site. This incident, as well as the burning of
the compound provoked unprecedented domestic violence within Israel.
After Yom Kippur, as the Palestinians failed to curb the violence, Prime
Minister and Defense Minster Ehud Barak authorized the IDF to use more
active measures, particularly to tighten sanctions on the Palestinians
Authority, in an attempt to exert pressure on the Authority to bring an end
to the violence.
On 12 October, two Israeli reserve soldiers driving in a car on their way to
their base mistakenly turned into a Palestinian controlled area near the
city of Ramallah. The two found themselves surrounded by a Palestinian mob,
were dragged out of their car and beaten. They were eventually brought by
Palestinian police to a Ramallah police station. Shortly after, a
took over the police station and viciously murdered the two reservists,
mutilating their bodies. The body of one soldier was then dragged from the
back of a car through the streets of Ramallah.
In response to the attack on the reservists, the IDF carried out five
limited helicopter attacks against strategic targets in Ramallah and Gaza.
These actions were carried out only after a prior three hour warning was
delivered to the Palestinians in an effort to reduce the number of possible
The Northern Border
While all of the events in the territories were taking place, there was a
hostage-taking incident on 7 October in which three IDF soldiers were
abducted along the Lebanese border by Iranian backed, Hizballah terrorists.
According to debriefings and an initial investigation, the vehicle was
ambushed by a force of some 15 -20 Hizballah fighters. The soldiers may have
been wounded. The Hizballah has made repeated demands to obtain prisoners
held in Israeli jails before they would release any information concerning
the kidnapped soldiers.
Prior to the kidnapping incident, hundreds of Lebanese, mostly of
Palestinian decent, were involved in violent demonstrations along the border
near the village of Zarit. Stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at IDF
troops and attempts were made to break through the border fence.
Appendix: Statistical Review of Casualties - 29 September- 13 October
Wounded: 123 Israeli Security Forces, 35 Israeli Civilians, 1500
Killed: 5 Israeli Security Forces, 3 Israeli Civilians, 90 Palestinians*