The near-lynching of an IDF officer in Jenin that made headlines Monday night is the latest of a string of similar, but unreported, occurrences, according to the defense establishment and Palestinian officials.
In recent weeks, there were four incidents in which Israelis accidentally drove into Palestinian towns, encountered mobs of civilians and were evacuated by Palestinian police. The Monday night beating and the recent incident of a family who ended up in Jericho on their way to Tiberias received widespread media coverage.
But there were many other instances of Israelis who lost their way and ended up in hostile Palestinian territory, including a number in the past two weeks, Palestinian sources said. Most Israelis were evacuated before the local population was aware of their presence and in many cases, the incidents were barely reported.
In an incident last Tuesday, security guards of construction works in the Seam Zone south of Jerusalem ended up in Bethlehem. They were surrounded by a mob, but Palestinian police once again arrived at the scene in time. Palestinian security officials were able to calm the mob and rescue the security guards.
Attempted arson of civilian buses
The day before that, two Israeli buses accidentally entered the Palestinian village of Halhul, next to Hebron. Although the incident itself was mentioned briefly by Israeli media, it was not reported at the time that Palestinian police forces arrested a youth who was planning to set the buses on fire.
According to a senior official present at the incident in Halhul, a mob of Palestinian civilians surrounded the bus and was trying to hurt the passengers, although fortunately a Palestinian police officer happened upon the area and noticed dozens of area residents moving towards the Israeli buses.
When the officer noticed that the Palestinian civilians were becoming unruly and shouting threats at the passengers, he called for police back-up. Dozens of Palestinian policemen were called to the area and they protected the buses, witnesses told Ynet.
At this time, one of the policemen noticed among the mob a young Palestinian approaching the buses with a gas can. During his investigation, the boy admitted that his intention was arson. Palestinian police forces distanced the crowd of residents from the buses, occasionally having to resort to the use of force.
The policemen made contact with the Israeli military via the District Coordination and Liaison Office. They then escorted the bus out of the village and into the custody of IDF troops.
"The incident in Halhul is one in which an officer called Palestinian police forces and saved the passengers. Who knows what will happen next time," a senior Palestinian official told Ynet.
He called on the IDF, border guard paramilitary police and Israeli police to increase their watchfulness regarding Israeli passengers in areas adjacent to Palestinian towns.
"They should accompany these vehicles because, despite our desire to protect Israeli lives, we can't always get to the location of the incident in time," he said.