Monday, September 13, 2004

IDF changes definition of 'ticking bomb' to include terrorists training

The IDF has changed the definition of 'ticking bombs' and will now target Palestinian gunmen engaged in terrorist training,
military sources have confirmed.

The new definition expands the criteria usually met for staging a targeted interception and indicates improvements in field intelligence.

The missile strike last week by an IAF attack helicopter against a large group of Hamas members in a Gaza Strip field was the first example of this change. Fifteen Hamas terrorists were killed and about a dozen wounded.

While the IDF does not see that strike as a classic 'targeted interception' it acknowledged that the rules have been changed. A senior military source described the decision as one aimed at pre-empting Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers at all stages.

Until now, targeted interceptions usually were directed against terrorist group leaders or 'ticking bombs,' indicating that they were already on their way to an attack and their bombs were primed.

A senior IDF commander said that the decision to use the attack helicopter was new, but recalled days when IDF engagements with Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip had much higher body counts.

'We have staged raids in the Gaza Strip where our snipers have killed over a dozen gunmen or we clashed with them and their death tolls have been higher,' said the senior officer. 'Do you think it matters to them if they are killed by a sniper or by a rocket fired from an attack helicopter?'

Another IDF source said that the idea of 'ticking bomb' was expanded to include not only those on their way to an attack, but planning and training for one.

Speaking at a conference on terrorism, National Security Adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland revealed that the IDF had four criteria that had to be met to carryout a targeted interception.

The first was that there was no way to arrest the person. He indicated that targeted interceptions were very rarely used in the West Bank, where the IDF pretty much has free reign in the past few years. Eiland also noted that during this time security forces had arrested over 1,500 people.

The second condition, Eiland said, was that the interception would only be approved when the intelligence was completely reliable, and no mistake could be made about the intended target's identity.

Eiland, who was head of the Operations Division during much of the recent conflict with the Palestinians, said the IDF carried out about 150 attempted interceptions in the past four years.

'There was not one single case of mistake in identity. Sometimes we missed or caused damage beyond what we expected. This is a 100 percent record,' said Eiland.

The third condition, he explained, was that the target was 'important enough.' The fourth condition was that it had to be done with the minimum probability of causing innocent casualties.

'There have been dozens, if not hundreds of times that we had good operational opportunity to do something but did not because it did not meet all four conditions,' Eiland said.

Human rights organizations have condemned the practice of targeted killings as extra-judiciary assassinations.

As fare as Eiland saw it, Israel did not have any such policy of targeted killing. He said that was a mistaken perception. The action was related to an increasing level of reliable intelligence, which was able to detect terrorist intentions earlier and earlier."