Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of September 22, 1997
Israeli troops reportedly staged a series of military exercises near Jenin last week aimed at reconquering Palestinian-controlled areas and battling PLO fighters assaulting Jewish settlements. According to Israel Radio, soldiers practiced recapturing a Jewish settlement that had been overrun by the Palestinian Police. In the drill, the IDF succeeded in its mission, but suffered a great number of casualties, the radio said. Other units carried out maneuvers, including operations in Palestinian areas, the radio said.
The exercise took place one year after the bloody riots that followed the opening of an exit to the Western Wall Tunnel. It was seen as sending a message to the Palestinian Authority that the IDF has learned the lessons of last year and is preparing for the possibility of an all-out war with the Palestinians. The IDF, which has previously acknowledged it has contingency plans for a major conflagration with the Palestinians in the territories, refused to elaborate on the reported exercise, saying it does not discuss operational activity or training.
But one military source dismissed the idea that it was actually aimed at reconquering the territories. "There was an exercise, but it certainly was not aimed at recapturing the West Bank," said the source. Quoting a senior PA security official, Reuters said the IDF had trained with helicopters, tanks, and troops near Jewish settlements around Jenin. Military Intelligence and the General Security Service have steadily warned of the increasing possibility of a renewed Palestinian uprising in the territories, saying this time it would include gun battles with Palestinian forces. They also say that PA cooperation in fighting terror is conditional on progress in peacemaking.
According to "Ha'aretz," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government has rejected this intelligence assessment. In an interview last week with Channel 2, Netanyahu called the "Ha'aretz" report inaccurate and incomplete. (c) Jerusalem Post 1997