Army chief appears before commission of inquiry: The evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona was discussed even before the disengagement, and the operation to clear the outpost was handled well by security forces, Army Chief Dan Halutz said Wednesday.
"Once it was decided to implement the move and once legal procedures were completed, we were tasked with the mission and we carried it out well," Halutz told the Knesset commission of inquiry into the violent clashes in Amona.
"In no way was it understood that the evacuation of Amona is like the disengagement," Halutz said. "The disengagement was a move undertaken in the face of legal communities, and in Amona we're talking about a move meant to enforce law and order over illegal construction, and therefore I find no room for comparison between the two incidents."
Halutz also said a decision was made not to use rubber-coated bullets during the outpost clearance and added the decision to use crowd-dispersal means was in the hands of officers on the ground.
"We knew there will be mounted troops…the decision on the ground was made by the officers on the ground…I can decide on an upper limit – not using rubber bullets," Halutz said.
Meanwhile, a first contradiction emerged Wednesday regarding the walk undertaken by troops in order to reach Amona.
"The on-foot journey was planned in advance," Army Chief Halutz said, contradicting earlier testimony by Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, who said the forces had to walk all night after settlers blocked roads in the area.
"The initial plan was for the forces to proceed on foot and overall they marched more than half an hour," Halutz said, adding that the friction between troops and settlers only took place on the main slope leading to Amona.
'No rubber bullets'
At one point, the army chief told the commission one young settler told him: "You know I could have shot you many times."
"There was plenty of animosity there," Halutz said.
The army chief added the use of tear gas was subject to the approval of a battalion commander, and stressed he ordered to refrain from firing crowd-dispersal means, namely rubber bullets. Halutz did say, however, officers were given the discretion to use tear gas.
The Army chief added the Israel Police was in charge of contact with civilians, with the IDF providing assistance in the outer ring of the evacuation. Addressing a question about the use of special means to disperse protestors, Halutz said: "All the means at the disposal of the Israel Police and IDF were available this time too."
Earlier, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin also provided his testimony before the committee in a closed-door session. In his testimony, Diskin addressed the Shin Bet's assessments prior to the evacuation.