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IDF Takes Steps to Ensure Troops Are Aware of Policy on Beatings

March 4, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Israel Defense Force has taken steps to make sure that every soldier in the field is familiar with and fully understands IDF policy on handling confrontations with Palestinian rioters.

Each soldier of the central command, which is responsible for maintaining order in the West Bank, must have with him at all times a booklet containing orders on when to open fire and a letter explaining in detail how to treat Palestinian civilians in disorderly situations.

Each soldier, moreover, on receiving copies of the letter and booklet must sign a statement in the presence of his commanding officer to the effect that he has received the directives and understands them.

The letter was originally issued to IDF officers on Feb. 23 by the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron. It states in unequivocal terms that beatings are not to be used to punish or humiliate Palestinians, but only to subdue disorder when and where it occurs or while in pursuit of suspects resisting arrest. Under no circumstances is physical force to be used against suspects in custody who are not resisting, the letter states.

The new instructions were prompted by a directive Attorney General Yosef Harish sent last month to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin after IDF investigators determined that many soldiers interpreted the “iron fist” policy as license to administer beatings to Palestinians at their own discretion.

Al Hamishmar quoted a senior military source Thursday as saying: “In every briefing with soldiers, I point out that persons arrested for stone-throwing or disturbances should be treated as prisoners of war, and that all international agreements (relating to POWs) apply to them, and of course, the prisoners should not be beaten.”

The IDF has been cracking down on violators. The commander of the southern region, which includes the Gaza Strip, has been personally investigating and dealing with every irregular act by soldiers. A number of officers and soldiers have been dismissed or sent to jail recently for violating the standing orders.

But resentment has been building up in IDF ranks. At meetings senior commanders have held with junior officers and soldiers in the field, it has become apparent the troops feel they are being “examined under a magnifying glass.” One soldier was quoted as saying, “I am more afraid of the central command than. I am of the stones.”

Maariv reported that the IDF has decided to initiate legal proceedings against soldiers only in the worst cases of excessive behavior. Four soldiers and an officer, arrested after burying alive four Palestinians at Salem village, near Nablus, on Feb. 5, have been released pending a decision by the military prosecutor whether to bring them to trial.

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