An outsider would not understand it...
West Bank and Gaza
Quite often we were recalled for operations in the West Bank or Gaza. At the time it was the first intifada or uprising by the Arab population of the
West Bank and Gaza.
Unlike today, the security responsibility in the years 1989-2001 was under Israel. But the “uprising” of the locals made our lives quite
uncomfortable. Our retaliation made their lives quite uncomfortable as well.
My intention is not to judge who is right and who is wrong in the Arab-Israeli conflict as I will leave that for the politicians and historians. I am
here to tell the story as seen by the eyes of a 19 year old soldier at the time.
So what did we see?
Well, they, on their side, were very eager to harm us. The hate in the eyes of the local population is hard to forget. We walked the street of Hebron
Schem and Tulkarem knowing fully well that the locals would kill us if they had the chance. The occasional Molotov cocktail or engine thrown at us
from the rooftops was a good reminder.
One day we caught one. He was 14 years old and we caught him throwing rocks at us. He begged and cried and said that it was a mistake. We let him go.
After 10 minutes he was back with a large group of friends throwing watermelon sized rocks at us from the roofs.
Different units responded differently to these situations. The paratroopers are known to treat the local population with respect. But some other
units, mainly the border patrol, have harder ways. They come in and the locals run away as if they have seen the devil himself. Crowd control is their
The ‘operations’ in the west bank were many times at night. We would appear behind a village accompanied by a Shabak agent (like FBI). He would
point at a house and say “this house has the wanted person inside”. We would go in and grab him out, trying not to make too much fuss. Many times
we found ourselves surrounded by elderly Arab women who cried “Ya Ibni” (my son) and try to prevent us from taking the suspects. Very unpleasant
stuff for a 19 year old (but more unpleasant for the suspects, I guess).
Sometimes the task was to guard an individual or a building. The daily activities in the West Bank and Gaza were very demanding. The patrols started
early in the morning and ended late at night. In Gaza, for example, we were assigned responsibility over a part of the town. We would patrol it and
set up random checkpoints to look for weapons. The hostile environment meant there were daily attacks on patrols. At the time they have not yet
introduced the suicide bombers. These were prominent in the second intifada starting in the year 2000. At our time, they would attack us with engine
blocks, home made explosives, swords, axes, knives and the occasional gunfire. We would respond with tear gas - which the local population is immune
to. Then we had “rubber” bullets, which were actually rubber-coated bullets. They were painful, but not deadly. Very inaccurate, can not hit
anything beyond 20 meters. We also had “plastic” bullets, which were, yes, plastic-coated bullets. These were nasty and could kill someone from a
short distance. And of course, we had our 5.56 ammunition, in case we were fired at.
We didn’t like Gaza. Nor the West Bank. It could be very confusing to understand the rules of engagement. These would change regularly. In Lebanon,
it was clear: Anyone approaching Israel from the North is a legitimate target. Here we had civilian population which could turn deadly as you turn
your back on them. They used kids to plant bombs and fake bombs on the sides of the roads. Every Israeli soldier injured by a rock would be
“worth” 200 shekels to the kid’s parents. We were happy to return to Israeli territory after each visit to the West Bank and Gaza.
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