Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Operation Defensive Shield

Operation Defensive Shield (In Hebrew, מבצע חומת מגן) was a large scale military incursion conducted by the Israeli Defence Forces in April 2002. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the occupation of this territory in 1967.

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Goals
3 The Operation
4 External Links


In March 2002, more than 135 Israeli civilians were killed in terror attacks committed by Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (the "military branch" of Fatah). These attacks reached their peak on March 27, 2002, with the event known as the "Passover Massacre", in which a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 28 people at the Park Hotel in Netanya (later, 2 more died from their injuries, raissing the death toll to 30).

Within twenty-four hours, the IDF had issued emergency call-up notices for 20,000 reserve soldiers, the largest such call-up since the 1982 Lebanon War.


The stated goals of the operation (as conveyed to the Israeli Knesset by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 8, 2002) were to "enter cities and villages which have become havens for terrorists; to catch and arrest terrorists and, primarily, their dispatchers and those who finance and support them; to confiscate weapons intended to be used against Israeli citizens; to expose and destroy terrorist facilities and explosives, laboratories, weapons production factories and secret installations. The orders are clear: target and paralyze anyone who takes up weapons and tries to oppose our troops, resists them or endanger them - and to avoid harming the civilian population. "

The Operation

By April 3, the IDF was conducting major military operations in all Palestinian cities with the exception of Hebron and East Jerusalem. The major points of conflict were:

During the operation, strict curfiews were placed on all the occupied Palestinian cities, resulting in complaints by human rights groups that essential medical attention was being denied to sick and elderly Palestinians, as well as complaints that Israel was practicing collective punishment, which is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention. In some cities, there were scheduled breaks in the curfew. In others, the curfew continued uninterrupted for a week or more. Throughout the two weeks of fighting in Jenin and for a few days afterward, no one was allowed to leave their home. The city of Bethlehem and its environs remained under curfew for five weeks, though there were periodic breaks, until an impasse at the Church of the Nativity was resolved. In reply to Human Rights, the Israeli army claimed that the curfew was placed in order to prevent civilians from being caught in gunfights and get hurt. They said also that Palestinian ambulances were stopped for check after an explosive belt was caught in a Red Crescent ambulance.

Notablable events that were the battle of Jenin and the siege of Yasser Arafat's compund. In the fighting in the Jenin refugee camp, there were allegations of a massacre of Palestinians by IDF forces, as well as allegations of Palestinians militants using civilians as human shields. The events on the battle of Jenin are still argued in both sides, although most of the Palestinian allegations were proved to be false (such as the Jenin massacre allegation that was refuted).

The operation officially ended on May 10, 2002, although occupations and curfiews continued after that time, gradually tapering off. Shortly afterwards, Operation Determined Path was launched.

The end result of the mission was that many suspected Palestinian militants were arrested, weapons were seized, bomb labs were destroyed, suicide bombings were thrawrted, and documents were found that the IDF claimed proved that there Yasser Arafat knowlingly funded terrorist groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

A poll conducted after the end of the operation indicated that 86 percent of Israeli Jews thought that the operation contributed to Israel's security, but 54 percent think the Operation has damaged Israel politically. However, in the final analysis, fully 90 percent of those surveyed asserted that the decision to launch Operation Defensive Shield was the correct decision. Views among Israeli Arabs are almost a mirror image of this consensus, with equally high numbers against the Operation.

External Links

The Battle of Jenin