The IDF has been relaying messages to the Palestinian Authority asking that it work towards curbing riots and demonstrations in the West Bank, particularly those surrounding the security barrier.
The army fears the protests may lead to further escalation, and IDF Central Command chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi has ordered a series of measures aimed at defusing tensions.
The IDF is looking to end the weekly demonstrations against the construction of the West Bank security fence, which are held mainly in the Palestinian villages of Naalin and Bil'in. The protests usually result in clashes between security forces and demonstrators, among them hundreds of left-wing activists.
Two Palestinians were recently killed
near Nablus when IDF forces fired rubber-coated bullets at them. The Palestinians claimed the soldiers used live fire.
Data compiled by the Central Command show that 2009 saw 120 riots in Bil'in and Na'alin, while the cost of the crowd-dispersing means used to restrain the demonstrators is estimated at NIS 6.1 million (about $1.7 million).
Closed military zone on Fridays. Naalin (Photo: Reuters)
The army is also concerned by the support these riots, dubbed "the white intifada," are getting from the Palestinian Authority's leadership, particularly Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The riots, during which demonstrators throw stones and firebombs, are organized and get media coverage.
"These demonstrations should be non-violent. They can protest quietly. We cannot accept a situation whereby throwing stones and Molotov cocktails is legitimate," a senior IDF officer told Ynet.
"The Palestinians claim the protest is non-violent, but we claim otherwise and refuse to let this situation go on. People are allowed to wave signs and sing, but we will not allow violence. A stone can be deadly," he said.
The data further indicate an increase in injuries among the Israeli security forces and the Palestinian demonstrators: From 102 injuries in 2008 (including 50 sustained by Israeli security personnel) to 145 in 2009 (62 sustained by Israeli security personnel).
As part of the effort to curb the violence, the army has arrested Palestinians suspected of igniting the riots and expelled foreign nationals who had participated in the demonstrations. In addition, the army is focusing more on pursing legal action against Israeli leftists and anarchists. Central Command chief Mizrahi has recently issued an order according to which the Naalin and Bil'in areas will be closed military zones on Fridays.
The army said the injunction is meant to make it clear to the Israelis taking part in the demonstrations that they are breaking the law.