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Israel army 'preparing for violence' as West Bank annexation looms

The Israeli government plans to begin annexation in July [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 May, 2020

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Netanyahu has promised not to hesitate over the annexation of large parts of the West Bank.
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, defence sources told Haaretz

Human rights organisations 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 Great March of Return protesters on the Gaza-Israel border killed more than 180 people between 2018 and 2019.

The Israeli defence 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.

Read more: Will the Palestinian Authority really cut ties with Israel?

Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces will continue sharing intelligence regarding imminent attacks but has ceased cooperation in other areas, defence 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Meanwhile, the PA has withdrawn its own forces from areas of the West Bank likely to see heated protests in the coming weeks and months, Arik Barbing told Haaretz.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 legitimisation by the Authority to confront the IDF," said Barbing, a former official in Israel's domestic security agency.
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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 1 July.

The Israeli government's annexation plans go hand-in-hand with a peace proposal by the Trump administration unveiled earlier this year.

The so-called "Deal of the Century" gives Israel the green light to annex most West Bank settlements, which are widely considered illegal under international law, and the strategic Jordan Valley.

"We have a historic opportunity, which hasn't existed since 1948, to apply sovereignty judiciously as a diplomatic... step in Judea and Samaria," Prime Minister Netanyahu told a meeting of lawmakers from his right-wing Likud party on Tuesday.

Right-wing Israelis and settlement advocates often use the biblical names Judea and Samaria to refer to the West Bank, which some consider a rightful part of Israel.

The Trump proposal allows only for a neutered Palestinian statelet with next-to-no territorial continuity and a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which both Palestinians and Israelis seek for a capital.

The plan has already prompted protests in the West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, as well as across the world, but such protests would likely be larger and more fierce in the event annexation goes forward.

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