Mothers march to Gaza border to demand IDF allow soldiers to defend themselves

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Mothers march to Yad Mordechai on the Gaza border to demand a change in rules of engagement for IDF soldiers. September 12, 2001. (Photo: Im Tirtzu)

Current rules of engagement require IDF soldiers to wait for explicit permission before taking action to neutralize a clear threat.

Dozens of women have taken part in a Mothers’ March to the Gaza border to demand that the IDF change its rules of engagement, following the shooting of a soldier, Barel Shmueli, on the Gaza border in August.

The women, mothers of IDF soldiers, reservists and activists, walked 15 miles from Ashdod to kibbutz Yad Mordechai on the Gaza border on Sunday, a journey of nine hours, to call on IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi to reduce restrictions placed on IDF soldiers when faced with combatants.

Currently, soldiers have to wait for explicit permission from officers to fire, even if they identify a clear threat.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, a soldier identified as A explained: “Even if you see someone holding a Molotov cocktail or a grenade… if you don’t receive permission from the battalion commander, brigade commander or whoever they designated, you cannot shoot.”

He added: “I personally saw a situation in which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at soldiers in the battalion and burned their legs and they needed to run and roll around in the sand [to extinguish the fire]. There was a sniper from another battalion who said that he saw the incident but didn’t shoot because he didn’t receive authorization.”

The protest was sparked by the death of Barel Shmueli, who was seriously injured when shot in the head at point blank range during riots on the Gaza border in August. Shmueli later died in hospital despite undergoing treatment for his wounds.

The IDF was severely criticized over current regulations almost immediately following the shooting, as many felt they were a contributing factor in Shmueli’s death.

One soldiers who fought alongside Shmueli told Walla News: “The rules of engagement were not clear. They told us what to do when our life is in danger but also said we need special approval to shoot in certain cases.”

He noted that “hundreds of Palestinians made it to the fence” before an approval was given to use rubber bullets on the day of Shmueli’s shooting.

Another said: “We didn’t know we were in danger, we didn’t see armed terrorists approaching the fence … a soldier would never position his rifle through a slit in the wall [as Shmueli did] if he knew that there were terrorists underneath him.”

He added: “They spoke to us about protesters … no one warned us about terrorists.”

The mother’s march was co-organized by Im Tirtzu, the Choosing Life Forum of Bereaved Families, Torat Lehima, and the Association of Community Rabbis.

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg, who participated in the march, said: “The IDF needs to be attentive to the soldiers, and when soldiers relay that they are being prevented from defending themselves, we need to listen to them.”

Tzofia Nahon, who initiated the march, said: “IDF soldiers should be able to fire on terrorists without waiting for authorization, and without being subject to the jurists or brigade commanders. Our soldiers are being abandoned in the face of the enemy. Together with the family of Barel, may God avenge his blood, we are demanding of the Chief of Staff: immediately change the open-fire regulations.”

(World Israel News).

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