While talk of a possible third intifada has lately been on the rise in the media, the IDF has quietly been preparing for large-scale unrest scenarios for some time.
Though the defense establishment in Israel believes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not an agitator for violence, the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division is not taking any chances. The division has been preparing and running drills for the past two years in case a “true intifada” begins.
The recent wave of terror has altered the way that many Israelis approach their daily lives. With multitudes of citizens purchasing pepper spray and applying for gun licenses, tensions are high in the once-calm streets of urban centers throughout Israel. Behind the scenes, the IDF is ramping up their preparations for possible conflicts.
At the beginning of the year, the Judea and Samaria Division carried out a widespread General Staff exercise that simulated an all-out escalation. Additionally, all new brigade commanders now undergo a week-long training exercise that focuses on how to combat an all-out Palestinian escalation in the territories.
Since 2011, the IDF has held a large-scale preparation drill for a third intifada once a year. However, each year the Palestinian street remains largely indifferent or stable. The exceptions have been during periods of conflict, such as Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge.
The exercises anticipate worst-case scenarios, often ones which include multiple simultaneous attacks engineered by a local neighborhood cell or organizer. The exercises not only teach officers and soldiers how to contain volatile situations and minimize casualties, but also how to capture heads of local terror cells and logistical perpetrators of terror. With riots becoming a daily occurrence, these exercises are deemed invaluable.
In addition to holding exercises, the IDF has outlined some key principles which underlie a set of contingency plans that will fall into place should there be an outbreak or a full uprising. These plans include the quicker deployment of thousands of regular fighters from training camps to regional divisions, preserving the policies of containment during disturbances, and minimizing Palestinian casualties. Also included will be the proportionate use of curfews as needed to separate the Palestinian population from the terrorists.
The IDF has already implemented some of these principles, such as the widespread deployment of checkpoints during an alert of a terrorist attack or an escape of a terrorist, which occurred recently in Jerusalem after a day of terror, leading to the closing off certain Muslim neighborhoods of the city.
The IDF, as always, will continue to maintain a high moral ground and attempt to disperse large-scale uprisings or riots with non-lethal force, utilizing such means as tear gas and rubber bullets whenever possible.