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Report on Nahalin Incident Urges Suspension of Officers

A military inquiry into the April 13 raid on Nahalin village ended Thursday with recommendations to remove one senior Israel Defense Force officer and two border police officers from duty and to reprimand the military commander of the Judea district.

Five Palestinians were killed and 50 wounded in the pre-dawn assault on the West Bank village, which lies less than 10 miles south of Bethlehem.

The casualties occurred when border police conducting the raid opened fire with live ammunition to disperse villagers who were attacking them with rocks.

The findings of the inquiry were announced at a news conference at the central army command.

“The incident was an aberration from standard operating procedure in its execution,” said Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, commander of the central sector.

Although the report stressed the violent behavior of the villagers and said some of the border police officers were in danger, it noted that “there was excessive use of gunfire.”

Nahalin was reputed to be the base of several groups of Arab youths who regular threw rocks at Jewish traffic on the Jerusalem-Hebron highway. Security forces have raided the village several times to try to apprehend local trouble-makers.

According to the military report, when the border police raided on April 13, the local youths were expecting them. They blocked the entrances to the village, forcing the police to leave their vehicles and enter on foot.

They then surrounded and pelted them, endangering some lives, the report said.

LACK OF COORDINATION CITED

The main confrontation occurred between the village mosque and cemetery. The report stressed that the police did not shoot in inhabited areas and did no damage to property.

But the report found that the operation was conducted without the necessary preparations and as a result, there was lack of coordination between local forces.

The report rejected allegations that the border police are unfit for such operations, saying that as professional police officers deployed in the territories on a long-term basis, they could in principle conduct similar operations in the future, provided they were properly prepared.

The inquiry into the Nahalin incident, considered one of the worst confrontations of the Palestinian uprising, ended just as the army reversed its policy to stay out of remote Arab villages.

This means that raids on villages such as Nahalin will continue, with the participation of border police units.

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