Israel stops nightly ‘mapping’ of Palestinian homes in West Bank

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The IDF says it is curbing a controversial practice of carrying out nightly raids on Palestinian homes in the West Bank in an attempt to gather information on the homes and their inhabitants.

The military has in the past defended the practice, known as “intelligence mapping”, as a necessary measure to counter militant groups. But human rights groups say the policy only served to intimidate civilians.

According to practice, soldiers woke families in the middle of the night to document the dimensions and inhabitants of houses in the occupied territory. Rights groups said the raids, carried out into homes where no one was suspected of illegal activity, had no strategic purpose and caused profound psychological trauma.

Israeli soldiers patrol after a soldier was killed when a stone thrown from a roof hit him in the head during an arrest raid, in the village of Yabad near the West Bank city of Jenin, in May 2020. The IDF says it is curbing a controversial practice of carrying out nightly raids on Palestinian homes in the West Bank in an attempt to gather information on the homes and their inhabitants.
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Israeli soldiers patrol after a soldier was killed when a stone thrown from a roof hit him in the head during an arrest raid, in the village of Yabad near the West Bank city of Jenin, in May 2020. The IDF says it is curbing a controversial practice of carrying out nightly raids on Palestinian homes in the West Bank in an attempt to gather information on the homes and their inhabitants.
(Associated press)

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The policy change came six months after Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Breaking the Silence, three Israeli activist groups, released a report on what they described as “arbitrary invasions” of homes. private Palestinians. They said the practice “effectively serves as a means to oppress and intimidate the Palestinian people and to increase their control over them.”

Israel captured the West Bank in the Middle East War in 1967. While the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority administers self-governing areas within the territory, Israel retains overall control and frequently conducts military raids even in the areas. controlled by the Palestinians.

Today, nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, according to official Palestinian figures, alongside nearly half a million Israeli settlers.

The Palestinians want the entire West Bank to be the heart of an independent state, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel says the West Bank is disputed territory whose fate must be resolved through negotiations. Most members of the international community consider the occupied West Bank territory and Israeli settlements to be illegal and constitute obstacles to peace.

In a letter to Yesh Din on Tuesday, the military said its raids “were not random operations” and were “intended for operational intelligence purposes”. He said there were strict guidelines for such operations “to minimize damage and disruption to residents’ quality of life.”

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Nonetheless, he said the raids would be halted “except in exceptional circumstances”.

The IDF confirmed the decision, saying any future cases would only be concluded under the command of senior officials.

Yesh Din executive director Lior Amihai called the military’s decision “very important.”

“Home invasions are inherent in the apartheid regime in place in the West Bank and we will continue to denounce and challenge this practice and others until human rights are respected for all,” he said. .

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Breaking the Silence executive director Avner Gvaryahu said this was an “important outcome” of the groups’ report, “but fundamentally it will not end the occupation or do any harm. to the Palestinians ”.

The announcement came less than a month after widespread unrest in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israeli towns during the 11-day war in May between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The conflict erupted after Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns after weeks of mounting tensions and violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in the disputed city of Jerusalem.

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