Rules of engagement to remain in effect in West Bank, Gantz says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A limit on the use of live fire by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank will remain in place, despite requests by settlers and politicians to ease the restrictions, Israel’s military chief said.

“We won’t ease the rules of engagement. If we let go of the reins, there will be an escalation and we’ll lose control,” Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

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Gantz suggested that soldiers should receive more instructions on how to adhere to the rules of engagement before going out in the field, during a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He has been under pressure from some right-wing members of the government to ease the restrictions on use of live fire.

Reuven Rivlin, a Likud Party lawmaker and former speaker of the Knesset, called for the easing of restrictions on the rules of engagement.

“Seeing besieged IDF soldiers withdraw in the face of rioters requires the IDF to think anew the instructions given to soldiers on the ground,” he told the committee.

Soldiers are prohibited from firing on Palestinian suspects who throw rocks and Molotov cocktails, except under extreme circumstances.

“The current situation can’t go on,” Rivlin said. “The entire world and the citizens of Israel are exposed to pictures of IDF soldiers helplessly standing in front of provocations and attacks by Palestinian rioters, and the IDF must provide them with the tools to deal with these situations,”

The meeting comes a week after the Affairs and Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria was told that Arab rock attacks have increased by more than three times over 2011 and that firebomb attacks have increased more than four times since 2011.

Gantz also told t he committee that he fully supports Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, the head of the IDF’s Central Command appointed by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Alon has been criticized by the settler movement and right-wing politicians as too left wing to head the military.