(JTA) — Israel’s army is ending its longstanding practice of middle-of-the-night raids on Palestinian homes to gather intelligence — a policy that drew criticism from human rights groups for the psychological damage it inflicted.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, on Tuesday reported the change in the practice, which has been in place for more than 50 years of Israel’s administration of the West Bank. Israel will continue raiding homes to make arrests and search for weapons caches.
The decision comes as Israel’s new government, led by the pro-settlement lawmaker Naftali Bennett, is seeking to tamp down the tensions that led to last month’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, who heads the army’s Central Command, ordered the change in part because of advocacy by anti-occupation groups, Kan said. Last year, three Israeli groups published a report that said there were an average of 250 raids a month, causing long-term trauma in families. The groups said the raids likely contravened international law.
Other factors in Yadai’s decision include technological advances that allow surveillance without physically entering a building, and his conclusion that the raids’ disruptive effect on Palestinians outweighed any deterrent effects of the raids.
Israeli human rights have long protested the raids, which are referred to in Israel as “mapping.” The raids gained international attention after a 2013 episode on the popular podcast “This American Life” detailed the practice. Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, which funds progressive groups in Israel that had condemned the raids, called the practice “indefensible.”
“I am gratified to see this appalling practice ending and grateful to our courageous grantees who helped to end it,” he said in a statement Tuesday.