JERUSALEM (Mar. 21)
Israeli forces in the West Bank had no contingency plans for dealing with anything of the order of the Hebron massacre, according to testimony by a former army commander of the West Bank.
“Jews don’t do such things,” Brig. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon told the five-man commission investigating the Feb. 25 killings of at least 29 Palestinians at a Hebron mosque by a Jewish settler.
Ya’alon also said Monday that there was “clear discrimination” in the army’s standing instructions never to open fire on Jews. The army’s open-fire directives do not take the same tack when it comes to dealing with Palestinians.
Testifying later in the day, the head of the Civil Administration in the territories, Brig. Gen. Gadi Zohar expressed dissatisfaction with the work of the police and said that Hebron’s Palestinian population had the impression that Jewish settlers were above the law.
Zohar said that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the site of last month’s mass slayings, had for years been a source of friction between Jews and Arabs.
Another officer who testified Monday, intelligence officer Lt. Col. Moshe Zarka, was the first to do so behind closed doors. Most sessions of the commission, which is headed by Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, are open to the public in the new High Court building in Jerusalem.
The commission’s open sessions are also broadcast live on radio and television.
Ya’alon, commenting on testimony already given to the commission about the army’s controversial open-fire instructions, said it was now obvious to him that the orders needed clarification and had not been properly understood.
But he nevertheless confirmed that Israeli soldiers had indeed been ordered not to shoot at Jews. Ya’alon added, however, that he would have expected that a soldier seeing an obvious crime being committed by an Israeli would still shoot at the perpetrator.
FEARS FOR THE SECURITY OF JEWS
Jews had been permitted to take their guns into the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Ya’alon said, because there were fears for their security.
Even after the Hebron massacre, he said, he would hesitate to change those orders.
On Sunday, the commission heard testimony from settlers praying at the Tomb of Patriarchs at the time that Dr. Baruch Goldstein opened fire on a crowd of Muslim worshipers praying in another location at the site.
None of the settlers who testified believed that Goldstein had had an accomplice.
Last week, two Israeli soldiers who were on guard duty when Goldstein opened fire at the mosque gave testimony that supported Palestinian accounts that more than one man had been involved in the massacre.