Israeli army commanders are defending their deployment of a small number of armored personnel carriers (APCs) in the occupied West Bank, saying that it would deter any incursions into Israel’s territory and prevent the kind of “provocation” the military had been warning about.
“We don’t want to see the people from Jordan and Gaza coming to Israel,” Col. Oded Regev, the military commander in charge of the area, said in an interview aired by Israel’s Channel 10 news on Thursday.
“They’re our neighbors and they’re not going to come to Israel to take revenge for what we do here.”
Runey, the Jerusalem Post newspaper, reported on Thursday that the army has deployed some 2,500 soldiers to the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the start of the 2014-15 war, but that most of the units are based at bases in the Golan Heights.
The IDF chief, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, on Friday reiterated his support for the deployment of armored vehicles to the Gaza Strip, saying the deployment “was necessary to protect the citizens of Israel and the safety of our soldiers in the Gaza strip.”
However, the commander said he was also concerned that such a move could lead to a wave of “disproportionate and illegal attacks” on Israelis.
“What if there are attacks on us from the other side of the border, in Jordan?”
Regevin asked rhetorically.
“If it’s the other way around, you’re going to have an attack by some Jordanian soldiers on us.”
I think that’s a dangerous situation,” he added.”
There is a danger of incitement, and if the incitement continues, you will end up with the kind where the soldiers will start shooting from the cars and the people will start dying,” he said.
Runeys comments were in contrast to comments by IDF chief of staff Benny Gabor, who in May described the vehicles as “a small, light, maneuverable force that will not attack anyone in the territory of the State of Israel, not even from the Jordan side.””
If we’re not careful, it will become a reality that the people who are supposed to protect us, will not protect us,” Gabor said at the time.
The Israeli military said on Thursday it deployed some 1,400 soldiers in a separate deployment to the northern Gaza Strip and West Bank in recent days.
The APCs, known as the Ashkelon-2, are the first tanks in the Israeli army’s arsenal to be equipped with armored body armor.
The tanks are designed to defend against the rockets and mortar fire of the Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas, which the Israeli military says is seeking to establish a “Jewish state” in the West.
The Gaza-related Israeli army spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Roni Alsheich, said the tanks were being deployed in response to rocket fire from Gaza.
Alsheich said the IDF is “not looking for the confrontation” between Israelis and Palestinians, but is instead “looking for the right balance between the right and wrongness of these actions, which can lead to the escalation of violence.”
He said the deployment was in response “to an ongoing campaign to target civilians, and not to attack Israeli forces.”
The IDF also said it was deploying armored vehicles in the Sinai Peninsula to counter rocket fire and to deter “terrorism.”
Alsheikh said in May that the Israeli forces had deployed some 700 tanks to the Sinai since the beginning of the war, including the Ashkhabad-1, a small tank with a turret similar to the one seen in the video of the tank commander.