Friday, March 16, 2007

Israeli Military conducts repeated takeover drills in Palestinian villages

Last update - 15:49 16/03/2007
IDF conducts repeated takeover drills in Palestinian villages

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israel Defense Forces conducted a drill this week simulating the takeover of a Palestinian village by a reserves unit.

For the third time within a month, despite a complaint filed with the Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit, the IDF conducted a takeover exercise at Beit Lid, a village near Tul Karm.

Last week, Haaretz reported that several IDF reserves soldiers approached the human rights group Yesh Din and complained over two exercises that were carried out by a reserves paratrooper brigade in Beit Lid as well as Safarin, another area village. In these exercises, the troops were commanded to take over the village, even though the residents were not considered especially hostile and there had been no warnings of militants hiding among them.

Yesh Din legal adviser Michael Sfard approached Mandelblit following the first two drills and demanded an investigation into the matter, saying the exercises could endanger both Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Sfard added that the drills cause unnecessary panic among the Palestinian residents of the area, though they are not suspected of militant activity.

This week, Beit Lid residents reported a third IDF exercise in their village, and Sfard reiterated his demand for the immediate cessation of the drills, and an investigation into the matter.

The IDF spokesperson said that the majority of the exercise took place in open fields and according to protocol.

Mandelblit ordered the military police on Thursday to open an investigation into the allegations that an IDF force used an illegal maneuver termed "neighbor procedure" in the West Bank city of Nablus last week.

The "neighbor procedure" involves the use of neighbors of suspected militants as human shields when conducting arrest raids. The procedure was outlawed by the High Court of Justice almost two years ago, but an Associated Press television crew documented IDF troops forcing a Palestinian man to accompany them while conducting an arrest raid in Nablus in February.

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