Israeli army to beef up West Bank troops ahead of Palestinian ' catastrophe day'

10:16, May 02, 2011      

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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is preparing to significantly bolster its forces near the West Bank towns and villages ahead of the Nakba day events scheduled to take place on May 15.

Nakba, "day of the catastrophe" in Arabic, is an annual Palestinian event commemorating the anniversary of the creation of Israel in 1948.

Several Palestinian groups in recent weeks posted notices on the Internet, calling to turn this year's event into a "Day of Rage" in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against Israel's occupation, as well as for demonstrations supporting the Palestinian statehood.

As in the past years, the upcoming Nakba will be marked with mass rallies and processions throughout the West Bank.

Intelligence officers at the IDF Central Command headquarters remain uncertain of the intensity of this year's events and whether they will spread from areas under the Palestinian control, Ha'aretz daily reported Sunday.

In light of this uncertainty, the military is rehearsing for several scenarios, which include thousands of Palestinian civilians marching toward the Jewish settlements or the security barrier in the West Bank, and violent confrontations at the Gaza border fence, according to the report.

The IDF plans to draw on its conscript units for the additional deployment, which will require a temporary halt of training exercises. The army will also rely heavily on the Border Police units, which are better familiarized with the West Bank and dispersing demonstrations.

Since the Egyptian anti-government protests erupted in late January, the IDF's West Bank Division has undertaken several pre- measures to deal with mass demonstrations in its own area of operation, including the establishment of special rapid-deployment teams and "psychological" workshops for troops stationed in the area on a permanent basis.

"The events in Egypt are a purely internal issue and have no effect on what is happening here," a senior IDF officer at the division recently told Xinhua.

He hailed the "excellent" security cooperation between the IDF and Palestinian security forces in maintaining public order and thwarting terrorist activities since the end of the second Palestinian uprising, which has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the security of the area.

However, IDF commanders are not sure whether Palestinian forces will be successful in containing the events on May 15, or whether they will attempt to intervene.

These assessments come amid the recent upheavals across the Middle East and the Egyptian-brokered Fatah-Hamas agreement to form a national unity government, which was announced last Wednesday in Cairo.

Source: Xinhua
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