IDF troops in Hevron
IDF troops in HevronIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A group of young soldiers in Hevron were lucky to escape with their lives Thursday when they encountered an angry Arab mob while trying to get to Kiryat Arba. The soldiers were on their way to a training exercise and made the mistake of asking a local Arab man for directions. The man directed them to a Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled neighborhood of the city, where the mob was waiting.

Dozens of Arab men began beating the soldiers, who were lightly wounded in the incident. Only one of the soldiers was armed; he managed to escape. The others were taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment.

Residents of the local Jewish community blamed the IDF's non-confrontational policy vis-a-vis Arab rioters for the incident. “The fact that the soldiers did not shoot when they saw they were in danger is a direct result of the orders forbidding them from dealing with the Arab rioters [in Hevron] over the past few weeks,” residents said. Instead of putting a stop to violent riots, “IDF soldiers have been told to stand by and wait for PA forces, who are the only ones authorized to restore order.”

"This shocking incident should serve as a warning to the Defense Minister. While he praises the PA forces and cultivates them, the troops under his command have lost their power of deterrence,” they stated.

'Our Hands are Tied'

The residents' opinion was backed by a commander from the Shimshon regiment, the regiment in which the soldiers in question serve. Speaking to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service, the commander warned that the IDF's policies regarding use of force were leaving soldiers with their hands tied in the face of PA Arab violence.

"We've been given orders that forbid firing in the air” to warn off attackers, he said. “If they throw firebombs at us, we're told to hide or to run away – that is the unequivocal order,” he continued.

"The situation is intolerable,” the commander stated. Soldiers are forbidden even to use non-fatal means of riot dispersal, such as tear gas or rubber bullets, when confronted by violent mobs, he said. “We can only use riot dispersal methods if the regiment commander gives his approval. There have been cases where they threw rocks and firebombs at us, we called the operations room to see what we could do, and we were told 'either wait for backup, or leave the area,'” he recalled.

Soldiers have been punished for firing warning shots in the air or using riot dispersal equipment even in cases where their lives were in danger, he reported.

"Why do they make soldiers carry so much equipment, if they aren't allowed to use it?!” the commander asked in frustration. “They enlist soldiers to fight terrorism, and then the top IDF commanders tie their hands and don't let them fight.”

Commander Faced Assault Charges for Slap

A military court recently decided not to send Lt. Adam Maloul to jail. Maloul had already spent 64 days in military jail and 32 days under house arrest for slapping an Arab suspect during a search for terrorists.

Maloul's commander, Colonel Itai Virov, initially expressed support for the lieutenant's action, but his own commander, Major-General Gadi Shamni, gave him an official reprimand for terming the use of force during an arrest “reasonable.”