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Monday, March 7, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Israel's military training to use live ammo against West Bank Jews

TEL AVIV — The Israel Army has been preparing to use live fire against Jews in the West Bank.


Military sources said the Army has held exercises for both reserve and conventional forces in which soldiers were ordered to open fire on Jewish protesters. They said the exercises took place in late 2010 and early 2011 amid plans to demolish several Jewish communities in the West Bank.

"This was a professional exercise that took into account all scenarios," a military source said.

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The sources said the exercises marked a new tougher policy with Jewish protesters, particularly those who live in communities deemed illegal over the last five years. They said the simulations envisioned joint Army and police operations to demolish illegal communities and prevent counter-demonstrations.

The policy has been ordered by Defense Minister Ehud Barak amid U.S. pressure to demolish scores of Jewish communities in the West Bank. The sources said Barak has won the cooperation of the new military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. In contrast, Gantz's predecessor, Gabi Ashkenazi, was said to have opposed direct Army operations against Jews.

On March 1, Israeli police, backed by Army officers, opened fire on Jewish residents of the illegal community of Gilad's Farm near Nablus. For the first time, police, who acknowledged they were not in mortal danger, used plastic and rubber bullets against Jews who resisted demolition of their homes.

On March 6, a police investigation team acknowledged that plastic and rubber bullets were fired toward Gilad residents. One weapon was identified as the FN303, described as a "less-lethal automatic launcher" and developed by Belgium's FN Herstal. Police said the weapon has been used against Arab rioters.

"The FN303 was used at two points at which stones and glass bottles were thrown at forces while they attempted to make arrests," the police panel said. "From the investigation of the officers who used the weapon, it was determined that they were properly trained and skilled and flawlessly carried out their work."

The Israeli daily Makor Rishon reported that reserve soldiers underwent what was described as psychological training for the use of live fire against West Bank Jews, many of whom serve in combat units. In one scenario, a Jewish man threatens to knife a soldier unless he is allowed to pass a military roadblock to arrive home in time for the Sabbath.

The scenario was said to end with the Jewish motorist being shot and killed. Makor said the training, which sparked objections by soldiers and junior officers, was devised by an unidentified Army colonel in the Carmeli Brigade.

"Scenarios are frequently intentionally exaggerated in order to prepare the commanders so that they can deal with complicated situations," an Army spokesman said.

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