1. When dealing with illegal and violent disruptions of the public order, the IDF exerts tremendous effort in trying to minimize harm done to rock hurlers, rioters or other disruptors of public order and safety. The IDF makes it its mission to end all incidents and disruptions without causing any casualties in the process. Current policy establishes that IDF soldiers must demonstrate restraint while also ensuring that riots and events like these are contained and prevented from escalating. This is frequently accomplished by IDF commanders and soldiers who, by taking great risks upon themselves, utilize appropriate, measured, and legal means and equipment to restore public order. The IDF decides which method or means of crowd dispersal to use in any given situation by taking into account the threat level they encounter. As such, the IDF places great emphasis on making sure senior commanders are present during these events. Additionally, operational forces deployed in Judea and Samaria undergo mental and operational preparations ahead of their deployment.
2. The majority of incidents or disturbances in the region actually display the IDF Forces’ steadfastness in adhering to official policy for when to use live fire. The incidents which B’tselem selectively points out do not accurately portray how the IDF routinely responds to these types of situations. The events which B’tselem mentioned have already been investigated by the IDF and, when deemed appropriate, a military criminal investigation was opened. Consequently, it should be clear that the IDF’s usage of various means and methods of crowd dispersal is intended solely to protect the stability and security of the region and for the defense of the state of Israel.
3. The rules and procedures for when to engage with live fire are clearly worded and also encompass the wide array of possible security situations IDF soldiers may find themselves in. These rules clearly establish for soldiers how to respond to life threatening situations as well as riots and other disruptions of public order. Additionally, the instructions regarding proper usage of crowd dispersal equipment are also clearly worded, organized and detailed. As updated instructions are passed from the headquarter-level to the field, they are adapted for the soldiers in the field, and "responses to specific situations" are included so as to ensure that the soldiers understand what is permitted with regards to the use of force and the use of the riot control measures.
4. It is important to note that the emphasis that the IDF places on the proper procedure for live-fire and proper usage of crowd dispersal equipment significantly reduces the potential for casualties. The IDF emphatically denies the claim that IDF soldiers racially discriminate when engaging in crowd dispersion in Judea and Samaria or in any other location. The decision regarding which specific crowd dispersal equipment to use is based purely on security and operational considerations, not on economic or any other type of consideration.
5. In order to deal with violent and illegal riots or other disruptions of public order, the IDF utilizes a selection of different equipment to disperse crowds as well as prevent causalities of any kind. The IDF invests a great deal in order to acquire as well as develop effective crowd dispersal equipment that will not harm the rioters; a good example being "Ha’Boesh" or the "skunk" canister. These measures are taken in order to avoid having to employ alternative measures.
6. By having to draw from incidents which occurred over three years ago or more, the report, ironically, highlights the success of the IDF’s policy of emphasizing and enforcing strict rules of engagement when dealing with riot control. Furthermore, the report relies on weak evidence, drawing on cases which are either no longer relevant or cases which are still currently under criminal investigation by the IDF. For instance: the data and information used in the section of the report dealing with rubber bullet usage actually come from a B’tselem letter sent over four years ago. Further, the apparent IDF document referred to as "Instruction 8, Rules of Engagement for Soldiers in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, January 2012" [Hebrew] on which the organization bases some of its claims is not known to the IDF at all.
7. It is important to note that B’tselem relies on information regarding official IDF riot control procedures and proper usage of crowd dispersal mechanisms only through secondary sources such as the manufacturers’ instruction manual for the crowd dispersal equipment used, IDF documents which have to come into B’tselem’s possession over the past few years, instructions issued separately by Israeli police, interviews with commanders, and media reports. These secondary sources are used because the IDF does not publicize its riot control procedures due to the procedures’ level of classification.
8. As a result of B’tselem’s reliance on secondary sources, the authors of the report frequently include inaccuracies and conjectures. The authors’ lack of clarity regarding the issue ultimately led to the portrayal of only a partial picture in their report.
9. In addition, the report is replete with irresponsible conclusions drawn from instances still under investigation, while ignoring the fact that many of their claims regarding specific incidents were closed without the need for any criminal investigation, while others which were opened for investigation were subsequently closed due to failure to find evidence indicating criminal action on behalf of IDF forces, or the refusal of the complainants to cooperate with the investigation (including refusals to provide testimony to investigating authorities).
In response to the report’s specific claims:
10. The conclusions of the report rest on faulty factual and normative foundations. This is especially true regarding the main conclusion of the report- that the IDF’s official Rules of Engagement and safety procedures are not clearly formulated and that ultimately prevents their proper implementation. Considering that B’tselem does not actually have in its possession a copy of those official rules and procedures, this conclusion is baseless.
11. All IDF soldiers who use crowd dispersal equipment undergo extensive training and preparation aimed at ensuring that they have mastered all the relevant official instructions and procedures.
12. We emphasize the fact that allegations of a violation of the Rules of Engagement are examined thoroughly by the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps.. Criminal military investigations are opened if it is deemed necessary, in accordance with the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps investigation policy.
13. The IDF utilizes an array of less lethal weapons with the aim of not only reducing injury to surrounding people but also with the aim of reducing injury to the rioters themselves. All crowd dispersal equipments used by the IDF has been approved for usage by senior military commanders, as well as by the IDF Medical Corps and the IDF International Law Department. For example, we note that the "sponge" bullets used by Israeli Police have not yet been examined by the IDF in accordance with this procedure. Further, we emphasize that only operational considerations come into play when deciding which means of crowd dispersal to use, and no weight is given to economic considerations. The IDF is constantly incorporating new crowd dispersal equipment into its arsenal in order to properly meet its operational needs.
14. As for the "Skunk" system, we note that it is classified as a riot dispersal means which sprays a strong smelling substance, and is intended for use by security forces in violent riots. The system is effective in dispersing riots while avoiding bodily harm to rioters. The system has been approved for use by the requisite authorities, who deemed the means safe for use and not life threatening.
15. In the chapter on tear gas the writers of the report state that military policy bans the use of gas launchers in a densely populated area. This statement is based on an apparent document titled "Instruction 8, Rules of Engagement for Soldiers in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, January 2012" [Hebrew]. As previously stated, the IDF is not aware of this document at all.
16. In regards to longer-range gas grenades, we have already responded to a previous request from "B’Tselem", which dealt with the this means. In this response, we explained that the IDF has no comprehensive restriction on the use of this means; however, the professional instructions for use provide a number of restrictions. For example, it is prohibited to directly aim the grenade at persons (see the letter provided by the Head, Operations and Human Rights, from the Office of the Legal Adviser to Judea and Samaria,724681 293/00 from 9.8.11). This letter or its contents are not mentioned at all in the current report.
17. Similar to its claim regarding the direct aiming of grenades, the report’s recommendation that "indirect aiming of grenades in open areas should be prohibited" is completely without professional basis or explanation.
18. As for the use of rubber bullets, as mentioned above, the writers of the report based its claim on an apparent IDF document which is unknown to the IDF.
19. Importantly, a detailed response was provided to the organization due to a number of requests to the legal office regarding the use of rubber bullets in previous years (the first of which was on 31.8.08). The response was provided by the Deputy Legal Adviser to the Government on 29.2.12, in cooperation with the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps. In this response, it was stated that the IDF has included restrictions on the use of this means in the Rules of Engagement, with the intention to decrease unnecessary harm. Under these orders it was determined that the use of rubber bullets is allowed only under certain circumstances, after determining a safety range for fire and under additional restrictions. It was also stated that the Rules of Engagement aim to balance between avoiding unnecessary harm to civilians (and thus avoiding the need for more dangerous means), and providing soldiers with tools that allow them to contend with the operational challenges that they face, while protecting the soldiers’ lives from the same threats.
20. Rules of Engagement allow the use of live fire in order to negate an actual and immediate threat to life, as the last option in the procedures for stopping a suspect, as well as in certain circumstances to contend with the threat to life posed during violent riots. As mentioned, detailed information regarding the rules of engagement cannot be provided due to their security classification. However, the citations in the report of the Rules of Engagement do not entirely reflect the reality, and thus the conclusion that IDF forces do not act according to the rules of engagement lacks any basis.
21. In addition, even if a representative of the Office for Operational Affairs from the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps had in fact confirmed that rock hurling at soldiers located in a topographically disadvantageous position justifies the use of live fire, that does not necessarily rule out the possibility that even when not located in such a position, the use of live fire may still be necessary to negate an actual and immediate life threatening situation.
22. As for complaints regarding Maj. Moyseiv, it has been made clear to "B’Tselem" more than once in the past that the use of the Ruger 22-caliber rifle or a different weapon with a similar caliber (0.22) does not qualify as a "means of riot dispersal" but rather as a lethal weapon, and its use is only allowed in circumstances in which the rules of engagement allow live fire. One cannot infer from Major Moyseiv’s words, which are relied on extensively throughout the report, that the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps instructions are not adhered to in the field by IDF soldiers. In fact, the opposite is true. After Major Moyseiv made these statements, the IDF Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division specially appointed an Investigatory Officer with the rank of Colonel to examine the incident. It was subsequently decided to take disciplinary measures against the Major, who no longer serves in the IDF. A separate examination conducted has concluded that among the higher levels of command in the IDF as well as among the commanders in the field, there is a high level of awareness of the restrictions on the use of 0.22 inch weapons.
23. As for specific cases mentioned in the report:
a. Harm caused to rioters by gas grenades:
i. The incident regarding Tristan Andrews (13.03.09) – the matter is under the purview of the State Attorney, as the Border Police was involved in the incident (and not the IDF). According to our knowledge, a petition has been filed in the High Court of Justice regarding the closing of the investigation by the State Attorney.
ii. The incident regarding Bassam Abu-Rahma (17.04.09) – the incident occurred during a joint incident between the IDF and the Border Police. An initial investigation of the operation found no involvement of the forces in criminal actions. In April of 2009 a joint investigation with Palestinians, the IDF Medical Corps and the Israeli Civil Administration was initiated. The investigation determined that the gas grenade shot out of the grenade launcher hit a stiff object and ricocheted in the direction of Abu-Rahma. Immediately following the incident, the use of the grenade launcher was stopped until the conclusion of the investigation, after which restrictions on the use of the launcher were provided to all forces. On the basis of an expert’s opinion presented by the organization of "Yesh Din" in June of 2010 in the context of legal proceedings in the matter, it was decided to open a Military Police investigation. The investigation which is currently underway is very complex, and is being conducted jointly between the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps and the State Attorney. It was recently decided to return the file to the investigatory authorities for additional information.
iii. The incident regarding Mustafah Temimi (09.12.11) – a Military Police investigation was initiated immediately following the incident and is currently in progress. Partly, delays in the investigation are due to the lack of cooperation of the complainants with the Military Police, which has included a refusal to provide testimonies, and the instigation of a riot when investigatory authorities attempted to create a reconstruction at the scene of the incident.
It is important to note that it is not possible to provide details regarding investigations still pending their conclusion; likewise, nor is it possible to draw sweeping conclusions regarding the IDF’s conduct during violent riots from unfinished and individual investigations.
b. Firing a 0.22 inch bullet at rioters:
i. The incident regarding Az a-Din al-Jamal – the incident is currently being investigated by the Military Police.
ii. The incident regarding Akal Srur – this incident is under the purview of the State Attorney.
c. The use of live fire against rioters:
i. As previously stated, the use of live fire is only allowed under very specific operational circumstances. In cases in which there is an allegation as to the use of live fire violating the rules of engagement, for example, the incident involving the officer in Nabi Saleh (01.06.12), a Military Police investigation is immediately opened to examine the circumstances of the event.
24. To conclude, we refer to two claims made by B’tselem which appear for the first time in the report’s conclusion: a. The imposition of closed military zones in sites used for riots – the allegation that areas are closed against the procedures set by the Legal Adviser to Judea and Samaria is incorrect. To the knowledge of the IDF at the time of writing, the closing of such areas are conducted in accordance with the law and the requisite procedures. b. The prohibition on incitement and hostile propaganda – as stated previously to "B’Tselem", protests that are non-violent, do not endanger the public safety and are coordinated with security forces are not prohibited. B’tselem’s interpretation of the military order mentioned in the report is not the accepted interpretation and does not provide an accurate reflection of the reality.
Finally, yet significantly, the report neglects to make any mention that in many instances, these violent riots cause physical injury and death to residents in Judea and Samaria, and cause significant property damage – not to mention the danger they pose to the security forces responsible for ensuring the public order and safety. The fact that B’tselem fails to make any mention of the dangers and results of these instances of violent riots is telling.