IDF: Off-duty soldiers who enter Area A to face investigation - Israel News, Ynetnews

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Kidnap Kerfuffle

Sergeant Tomer Hazan, deceased
Sergeant Tomer Hazan, deceased 

IDF: Off-duty soldiers who enter Area A to face investigation

Recent murder, threat of future kidnaps prompt IDF to toughen restrictions on entering PA-controlled zone

Yossi Yehoshua
Published: 12.05.13, 13:27 / Israel News

The murder of IDF soldier Tomer Hazan, who was enticed by a Palestinian co-worker to enter the West Bank, caused the creation of new operating procedures in the Israeli army.


Starting Thursday a criminal investigation will be launched against every soldier who enters Area A in the West Bank.


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Area A is the portion of the territories which is under full civilian and security control of the Palestinian Authority, as agreed under Oslo II in 1995. Israeli citizens are forbidden from entering this zone, as are off-duty soldiers.


Until now, IDF policy has been lenient towards soldiers which broke the regulations against entering the area. The flexible policy allowed commanders to use their own judgment in meting out punishment; only in severe cases were violators tried in court.


As of now, the IDF has decided to take a more stringent approach with transgressors, partially because of the increased priority given to the threat of soldiers' kidnapping.


In the Palestinian public sphere, the Shalit prisoner exchange is viewed as a massive victory, and Palestinian terror groups have expressed interest in holding hostage more Israeli soldiers or citizens as bargaining chips for the release of more prisoners in the future.


'Problematic, perturbing phenomenon'

Since the beginning of 2013, the Shin Bet has prevented 37 attempted kidnappings.


At a recent forum of the IDF General Staff, Military Police chief Brigadier General Golan Maymon presented an alarming picture which points at regular entry of soldiers into the territories in for shopping and vehicle repairs. Maymon noted that in the last three years around 40 soldiers were caught at roadblocks on their way back into Israel.


"We are talking about a problematic and perturbing phenomenon," he emphasized.


In the wake of the Brigadier General's comments and given the tragic death of Sergeant Tomer Hazan, the IDF command has decided to work to reduce the number of incidents in which soldiers enter the West Bank.


The first tactic announced is the aforementioned opening of case-files at the IDF's Criminal Investigations Department for every soldier who enters the territories of his own free will.


"In the past there was no unified policy regarding treatment and punishment in these cases," explained the Brigadier General, "Some of the soldiers were judged, some received probation, and others were detained or served jail time."


"Today we want to clarify to the soldiers and their commanders beyond the shadow of a doubt that entry to Area A is absolutely forbidden, and will result in the opening of criminal case-file, an investigation, and the decision of a prosecutor regarding a court-martial," he added.



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