Security forces: How police limited the Jerusalem riots

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2010

Security officials believe that they have contained the violence in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The last four weeks saw an unprecedented outbreak of rioting, following a decision by the Israeli government to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem on a list of national heritage sites.

The security policy towards the rioting has been one of "containment", trying to isolate the outbreaks and prevent them from spreading. Defence Minister Ehud Barak signed a closure order for the West Bank for five days, starting last Thursday. The procedure has been used very rarely in recent years.

Israeli police and army used new tactics in an effort to quell the riots without causing any fatal casualties which have lead to an escalation. In the riots that broke out in Jerusalem especially, there was widespread use of policemen disguised as local Arab citizens to carry out arrests. This helped to round up the ringleaders before the riots got out of hand. As a result, the great majority of the casualties were light.

By Tuesday evening, the security assessment was that the rioting was dying down and Mr Barak authorised the end of the closure. Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen said that "there are no signs of a third intifada".

Israeli intelligence experts said that at the beginning of the rioting, there were indications that the PA was in favour of the violence, since its leaders felt that it would help apply international pressure on Israel to freeze building in east Jerusalem. Later, when Hamas began calling for its supporters to riot, the PA changed tack for fear that they would lose control. Palestinian policemen held rioters back and made sure that in most cases they would not reach IDF positions. As a result, the rioting in the West Bank was relatively sporadic.

General Security Service chief Yuval Diskin also sent his PA counterparts a stern warning that Israel would cut off supplies and not allow businessmen to leave the West Bank if violence continued.

Last updated: 4:46pm, March 18 2010