Almost the start of the Third Intifada
Watch this video of six Israel Defense Forces soldiers holed up in a Hebron butchery surrounded by an angry Palestinian mob. The symbolism of the dead meat dangling from hooks and the Israeli soldiers confronted with a frightening situation cannot be ignored.
Hebron Palestinian Authority policemen stopped the IDF patrol from entering the market area, something which generally does not happen. This then lead to the first confrontation between armed Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers. The IDF troops, rebuffed, took shelter in butchery, and shoot their way out of the sticky situation with gas canisters and rubber bullets.
According to the IDF Spokesperson, the soldiers, of the Nahal Brigade’s 931 Battalion, were conducting a patrol through a Hebron neighborhood when they ran into Palestinian Authority policemen who told them they could not continue. The soldiers ignored the policemen’s demand and attempted to go on with their patrol as usual, but what started as a conversation quickly degraded into shoving by both sides when the PA police would not let the Israelis pass.
This story could have ended badly and we’re all, Palestinians and Israelis, extremely luck that it didn’t. This could have easily turned into a lynching, kidnapped soldiers, or a live-fire catastrophe with dozens dead. This is how the Third Intifada could have started.
It could have ended with a frantic rescue mission like the one Egyptian commandos launched last year to rescue six Israeli embassy guards holed up in Cairo. Or worse. The soldiers could have panicked and opened fire, killing dozens, possibly setting off a third Intifada. This was a strategic blunder brought about by the IDF’s misreading of the situation in Hebron following the UN statehood vote and its resonance on the Palestinian street, as well as the resonance of Operation Pillar of Defense and the perception amongst Palestinians that Hamas won. Somebody at the Civil Administration, the Shin Bet, and Military Intelligence does not have their ears to the ground.
The video of six soldiers seeking refuge inside butchery in Hebron is symbolic, and scary. Symbolic, because the Israeli troops were this close to being dead meat themselves.
The video shows a serious operational error by the IDF. The IDF says the soldiers were on a “routine patrol” in the Hebron market. But the situation on the ground is no longer “routine.” Since the UN vote granting the Palestinians statehood, it seems that things on the ground are changing.
According to reports on the incident, a Palestinian police officer on Wednesday refused to allow an IDF patrol jeep into the market area. The jeep withdrew, but came back the next day, Thursday, to arrest the ‘upstart’ Palestinian policeman. I mean, who does he think he is? Who do the Palestinians think they are? Do they think they’re citizens of a real state now? Do the Palestinian police now think that they have a real state to police? Surely they can’t think that?
But I guess the policeman, and his colleagues, ‘have grown a pair’ since the UN vote. And perhaps they’ve also ‘grown a pair’ since Hamas successfully stood up to the Israelis in the latest war.
Like the incident on the Mavi Marmara, once again, IDF troops show their mettle by fighting their way out of a sticky situation. They fired gas canisters and rubber bullets and extricated themselves. They behaved with restraint and assertiveness, and kept their cool. Once again, we see Israeli troops on the ground behave with courage and honor. But once again, we see their commanders, the people who sent them on their “routine” mission, caught sleeping at the wheel, without the proper intelligence and understanding of the situation on the real ground.
Here’s another video example of the growing confidence of West Bank Palestinians when facing IDF troops.
The bottom line folks: things in the West Bank are changing. They see what Gaza’s rulers have achieved [standing up to Israel, visits by the heads of state and prime ministers of of Turkey, Qatar and Egypt] and they want change too. Keep your eyes peeled.