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Fleeing Soldiers Claim Officers Were Afraid of Media Photos

Fears of media photos may have caused soldiers’ retreat in face of rock-throwing Arabs. IDF reviewing limitations on soldiers.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/10/2012, 12:56 PM

Arabs throw rocks (archive)
Arabs throw rocks (archive)
Flash 90

The damaging video of Israel soldiers fleeing from rock-throwing terrorists may have a happy ending as the IDF reviews limitations on soldiers, several of whom also charged that officers' fear of media photos, certainly not fear of the rock-throwers, forced them to retreat.

The video of the soldiers in retreat last Friday may have embarrassed senior IDF officers enough to change increasingly restrictive limits on soldiers’ ability to fight terror.

Combat troops have privately complained the past several years that they have been exposed to life-endangering situations by restrictions on their shooting at terrorists. Some have said that every soldier needs a lawyer at his side to understand the directives.

Threats of international court cases, lawsuits, and negative media that term terrorists "civilians", "youth" and "activists" have been behind the restrictions that place soldiers in a situation of having to prove their lives were threatened if they shot and wounded or killed a suspected terrorist, especially if he turns out to have been a regular civilian acting in a suspicious manner. It is not unusual for seeming civilians to pull knives on soldiers or carry explosives.

Biased media have proved to be an enemy that has aggravated their situation, with foreign mainstream media often showing soldiers shooting at Arab rioters, who are presented as innocent “demonstrators” in a David vs. Goliath scene of Arabs being armed “only” with rocks and bottles while Israeli soldiers have rifles.

The scene of more than 200 rock-throwing rioters from which soldiers retreated in a riot in Samaria on Friday caused the IDF to release a statement that it is reviewing detailed instructions that will take into consideration “factors in the field.”

The Maariv newspaper reported Monday that contrary to officers’ claims that they refused soldiers' requests to use riot-dispersing weapons in last Friday’s riot in order to avoid aggravating the situation, soldiers stated that the officers were afraid of media exposure on film.

Two soldiers and a Border Police officer were injured by rocks, causing wounds to the face and head as well as a broken or fractured arm.

The incident was preceded by a similar situation in Hevron, where soldiers who were trying to arrest a Palestinian Authority policeman for terrorism retreated in the face of a mob of rock-throwing Arabs.

Hundreds of Jewish motorists on highways in Judea and Samaria have complained for years that soldiers are not allowed to confront rock-throwing terrorists, which often cause accidents and have caused deaths.

The video of soldiers in retreat may reverse the situation.

Former Chief of Staff and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, now head of the fractured Kadima party, said that “soldiers do not have to be afraid of fighting and must be allowed to make decisions in the field.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) called on Monday for a Cabinet discussion on the issue of soldiers’ ability to fight terrorists. “A soldier must be allowed to have maximum use of his weapon when he feels his life is in danger,” he said.