IDF beefs up forces ahead of Palestinian unity demonstrations

15:26, March 16, 2011      

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The Israel Defense Forces has bolstered its presence in the West Bank and will remain on high alert ahead of mass demonstrations slated to take place on Tuesday in which Palestinians will call for Fatah-Hamas unity.

Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are expected to take to the streets for mass rallies aimed at convincing Fatah, Hamas and other factions to put aside their differences for the sake of Palestinian unity.

On Monday, the IDF deployed two battalions in the West Bank, reinforced by border police units, following the killing of a five- member Jewish family at the Israeli settlement of Itamar on Friday night. The additional troops were brought in to take part in the large-scale operations to hunt down the assailants, who knifed the family to death, including a three-month-old infant.

The troops were also to intervene in preventing clashes between settlers and Palestinians. Several violent incidents took place in recent days throughout the West Bank, with outraged settlers hurling stones at Palestinian homes and torching cars.

Israeli army sources told Xinhua on Monday that "they were prepared for any eventuality," but would not comment further on troop buildups in the West Bank.

The IDF, however, is concerned that Tuesday's demonstrations in Ramallah will spread to other West Bank cities and could potentially lead to a mass outbreak of violence, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The newspaper revealed last month that the IDF has established rapid-response teams designated to deal with mass unrest and instructed commanders to mentally prepare their troops for dealing with such scenarios.

The campaign to forge Palestinian unity was launched several weeks ago by youth groups on Facebook and other social networking sites. In contrast to the protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the Palestinian campaign does not seek to overthrow the current leaderships in Gaza and the West Bank, but rather to bring them together.

The campaign has since picked up momentum, attracting various political factions which called on their loyalists to join the rallies.

Source: Xinhua
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