Israeli Army Preparing to Suppress Protests as West Bank Annexation Looms

Palestinian demonstrators protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank. (Photo: via MEMO)

Israel’s army chief has told the military to prepare for heated protests in the West Bank as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presses ahead with his plan to annex large swathes of the occupied Palestinian territory as early as 1 July, Haaretz reported.

Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi told a meeting of army commanders to prepare for a possible escalation in violence ahead of the planned annexation date.

Protests in the occupied West Bank and the concurrent Israeli response could prove much more bloody than in previous years, defense sources told Haaretz.

Human rights organizations have accused Israel of habitually exerting excessive lethal force against protesters who pose no danger.

The use of tear gas and live bullets to counter the Great March of Return protesters on the Gaza-Israel border killed more than 180 people between 2018 and 2019.

The Israeli defense establishment believes the Palestinian Authority’s withdrawal of security cooperation with Israel over the proposed annexation is more grave than previous pledges to quit cooperation.

Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces will continue sharing intelligence regarding imminent attacks but has ceased cooperation in other areas, defense sources say.

Meanwhile, the PA has withdrawn its own forces from areas of the West Bank likely to see heated protests in the coming weeks and months, Arik Barbing told Haaretz.

“This is notable in Hebron, among other areas. The Palestinian population perceives this as legitimization by the Authority to confront the IDF,” said Barbing, a former official in Israel’s domestic security agency.
The unity government formed earlier this month by Netanyahu and centrist Benny Gantz has said it can start annexing parts of the West Bank as soon as July 1.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his pledge to annex part of the occupied Palestinian West Bank in July.

Palestinians have expressed outrage, appealing to the international community to block the Israeli step, which, if implemented, would be considered the final nail in the two-state solution’s coffin.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on May 19 that the PA is canceling all agreements with Israel and the US, as a direct response to Israel’s annexation plans.

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