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Israeli army readying settlers ahead of Palestinian statehood bid: report

(Xinhua)

10:12, August 31, 2011

JERUSALEM, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- With the clock ticking down to possible recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations General Assembly in September, the Israel Defense Forces ( IDF) has recently begun training civilian security personnel at West Bank settlements in coping with potentially violent confrontations with their Arab neighbors, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The military has also decided to equip community security chiefs with nonlethal riot dispersal gear, including tear gas and stun grenades, according to the report, which claims to be based on a document obtained by the newspaper.

The specialized training is part of the IDF's overall preparations for Operation "Summer Seeds" in September, when its forces will be dramatically beefed up throughout the West Bank to counter potential mass demonstrations.

However, the chief security officer of a Jewish town south of Jerusalem, on Tuesday flatly denied the report.

"The IDF has not issued anything of this sort to the communities," the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, told Xinhua.

He did, however, note that he and his counterparts at other settlements have begun prepping their private security contractors and resident volunteers to show a "heightened alertness."

But, he cautioned, while "the army will be tasked with dealing with disturbances," the role of local security teams would be, in his words, greatly limited.

"My guys are forbidden from even exiting the community...the rules of engagement will also be strictly enforced. Firing live ammunition is totally banned, not even (firing warning) shots in the air," the official said.

The security officer, who regularly meets with local Palestinian village leaders as a part of his position, says the grim predictions for September may be grossly overrated.

"The Palestinians I meet are tired (of conflicts)," he said. " They are seeking to live quiet, prosperous lives."

In any case, according to the Ha'aretz document, the IDF is readying for an array of scenarios unfolding in September, from mass marches to shooting and militant attacks. Troop levels will also be augmented along Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria on the occupied Golan Heights.

In the West Bank, military planners envision thousands of Palestinian protestors blocking main roads and attempting to march on settlements. The assumption is that clashes between the residents of Jewish communities in the area and Palestinians are more than likely.

An IDF spokesman confirmed that the army is "holding an ongoing professional dialogue with elements in the settlement leadership" and is engaged in ongoing training of security personnel in defensive tactics.

On Monday, the IDF summoned an undisclosed number of settlement security officers for a refresher at a military installation. Specialized training has also been offered to "readiness squads," groups of volunteers who secure Jewish settlements.

Settlements in the West Bank also heavily rely on private security guards, most of whom are veterans of IDF combat units, for daily security operations in the communities. A second layer of protection are fences that surround the communities, many of which are equipped with electronic surveillance measures, including cameras and motion sensors.

As part of its preparations, the IDF has also allegedly established virtual "red lines" for each settlement that neighbors a Palestinian village, according to Tuesday's report.

Palestinian demonstrators crossing the first line will be met with tear gas and other riot dispersal means. The second "red" line delineates the minimal distance from the settlement, beyond which troops can fire live ammunition at demonstrators' legs to prevent them from breaching the perimeter.

Owing to the potential repercussions of using live fire against demonstrators, IDF regional brigade commanders personally approved the red line demarcation for each settlement.

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