IDF admits `ugly vandalism' against Palestinian property

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Muslim News" <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 09:41:33 +0100

Israel Defense Forces sources have admitted that Palestinian claims of the 
systematic destruction of property, particularly computers, during the recent 
military operations in Ramallah are, for the most part, true. "There were 
indeed wide-scale, ugly phenomena of vandalism," a senior military sources told 
Ha'aretz yesterday. 

And while another military source said that the army had yet to undertake a 
full investigation into the matter, there are already many individual cases 
that are being prosecuted through the military justice system. 

Within the context of Operation Defensive Shield, an intelligence unit 
specialized in systematically going through public institutions of the 
Palestinian Authority and collecting hard disks from computers in offices, for 
the purposes of examining them based on the assumption that some would contain 
information on terrorist activity. 

The IDF sources explained that because various PA institutions, including civil 
authorities, were involved in terror, some of the computers had indeed included 
valuable intelligence. 

However, the sources admitted that in many cases the searches had turned into 
systematic vandalism, without any justification. 

"It was not an order from above," said a senior source, "but that's how it was 
understood in the field. The infantry, both the conscripts and the reservists 
who accompanied the intelligence teams, understood that they were allowed - or 
indeed expected - to destroy the property in the offices." 

"The result," the source continued, "was damage running into hundreds of 
thousands of dollars. Soldiers smashed computer monitors and destroyed 
keyboards. There were places in which bank branches were destroyed and 
automatic tellers were raided. In some cases, theft accompanied the vandalism. 
It was significant damage, widespread and totally illogical." 

The source said that while the extent of the damage was clear, the IDF had yet 
to undertake a serious investigation into what had taken place. 

A reserve officer who played a senior role in the Ramallah area said that he 
believed most of the damage had been done during hunts for wanted men and 
munitions. "We found weapons and sabotage equipment in what were seemingly 
civil institutions," the officer said. "There were instances in which soldiers 
broke open doors because nobody was inside. Clearly there was looting, but most 
of the damage was done during the hunt for people and weapons. This was war, 
not a lab operation." 

A veteran intelligence officer said the explanation for the IDF's behavior was 
to be found in the difference between the fighting in the territories and 
previous wars in Lebanon and the Sinai. "Those were clear-cut enemy 
territorie,; and it was clear to the intelligence units that they would take 
everything because everything was military equipment. In the Palestinian 
Authority, everything was mixed up - civilian, security, terrorist. It is very 
difficult to make the distinction. Some of the damage was done by the unit, and 
some by other soldiers, at their own initiative." 

Reservists who served in the Ramallah and Bethlehem areas said they had 
witnessed many instances of deliberate damage caused by soldiers to Palestinian 
property. Some also spoke of cases of looting. 

"The extent of the looting is much greater than could have been expected in 
advance," a senior legal source told Ha'aretz. "This is an ugly and serious 
phenomenon." 

Some cases involved two or three soldiers who had worked together, the source 
said, noting that reservists as well as conscripts had been involved. Some of 
the suspects were combat troops, the source added; and in certain cases, 
military defenders had reservations about representing suspects due to the 
nature of the crimes. 

Most of the incidents are expected to end in plea bargains, with the convicted 
serving prison sentences. The majority of the looting took place in Ramallah, 
though there were reports of instances in Bethlehem as well. Most of the cases 
are in Central Command's JAG unit. 
Source: Ha'aretz


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