What do you mean? About once a week, a group of people would be air-lifted from the Pnei Hever helicopter landing and we’d be flown somewhere, usually in Yatta or around there, land in the middle of the village, do a patrol or something, and go back. The helicopter would land in the middle of the village and we’d be flown back to base.
What did you do inside the village? There are check-posts, where you put up a barrier in the middle of the road and start checking ID cards, vehicles, doing searches. There are house searches, or intelligence mapping, meaning you enter a neighborhood, go from house to house, find out who lives there, take down their ID numbers, names, usually it’s a hamula (extended family). Most of those missions were in Yatta, in Dura. Ours was in Yatta, in our sector, the South Hebron Hills, near – what was it? Not Jabal Juhar. Sindas.
Jabal Sindas. Yes, and some in the Zaytoun neighborhood inside Hebron, that was when we were posted at Beit Haggai, right across the road. So, basically, you go in and simply write down the names, who lives here, who are the cousins, who’s the father, the grandfather, the kids, who lives there. Intelligence mapping. House searches. You enter the house and start looking for all kinds of forbidden stuff.
How does the search go? Obviously it depends whether it’s day or night, but usually it’s more or less the same, except that all the security outside is more of an issue. At night you simply secure the house and that’s more or less it, all the neighbors are asleep. During the day, everyone is outside, so it’s usually a slightly bigger force. You surround the house with teams of soldiers. If you don’t have enough [soldiers], you just secure the entrance, knock on the door, ask for the house owner, he comes out, presents himself, what’s your name etc., who, what, why. He goes back in, gathers everyone in one room, everyone who’s in the house, children, old people, women, whatever. They’re all put in one room, and then the force comes in. There’s a team that starts clearing the rooms, making sure there’s no one armed inside or anything. Usually one guy or a whole team watch over the people inside the room. And there’s more people, usually, they come in, sometimes on the porch, sometimes still outside, and they secure the place facing outwards, so that no one comes into the house while the guys are searching inside it. You go room by room, open closets, look at everything. Sometimes the owner of the house comes with you, sometimes not. Usually, we wanted to do it with him or with someone who spoke Hebrew, if there was someone like that around, because it’s easier that way. Then you leave. You wrap things up the same way. I guess you know how it works, securing and teams and so on. If it’s an intelligence mapping mission, then it’s less searching and more asking who lives there and writing it down. If it’s a check-post, you simply stop traffic and start searching vehicles. If some guy looks suspicious, you check his ID number with the war-room over the radio. Once in a while you get a "bingo", that he’s wanted.
What are the rules of engagement inside the village? At first, we went around with a magazine inside [the rifle], but with no bullet in the barrel. After the Sheep Junction incident (where three Lavi Battalion soldiers were killed in January 2003), the orders were to have a bullet in the barrel [always] or sometimes, depending what mission we were on. The rules of engagement were: if you identify an armed person for sure, you kill him, you shoot to kill. If you see someone suspicious, you carry out ‘suspect arrest procedure’, meaning, [you yell] “Stop! Stop”, shoot in the air, shoot him in the legs, and if he’s still a threat to you, you kill him.
Nothing more? No. There were mistakes sometimes, but okay. That didn’t happen with me. That happened later, when I was released. They carried out an arrest, there was a guy on the roof, they thought he was armed, they killed him. In the end, I don’t know, he was holding a broom or something. What was he doing on the roof? I don’t know, but they thought he was armed, so they killed him.
Did you ever use Palestinians as human shields? What do you mean, human shields? Not in general. There were cases of soldiers tying people to jeeps and all that. No, we didn’t do that. But 'neighbor procedure' – yes, we did that.