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2,227 West Bank arrests, 1,400 sorties, 176 Gaza rockets

2020 sees fewest soldiers, civilians killed in war or terror in Israel’s history

IDF releases year-end statistics, including 50 targets hit in Syria, a million doctor’s visits by troops, and over 1.4 million coronavirus-related phone calls answered

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Golani Brigade soldiers search for the killer of one of their comrades, Amit Ben-Ygal, in the West Bank village of Yabed in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)
Golani Brigade soldiers search for the killer of one of their comrades, Amit Ben-Ygal, in the West Bank village of Yabed in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday released a heap of statistics illustrating its activities over the past year, including the number of targets struck in Syria (about 50), fighter jet sorties flown (1,400) and calls answered by the Home Front Command’s coronavirus information call center (1.4 million).

Despite the pandemic, the West Bank remained a significant source of concern for the IDF — on par with recent years — though there were some areas of improvement and some of regression. In 2020, the number of stabbings decreased by a third, from 12 in 2019 to nine. The number of shooting attacks, however, increased significantly, from 19 in 2019 to 31, though this was similar to the number of shootings in 2018 — 33 — and in 2017 — 34.

In total, the IDF said the West Bank saw 60 terror attacks in 2020, up from 51 in 2019, but down from 76 in 2018 and 75 in 2017.

In response to these attacks and as part of ongoing efforts against terror groups in the West Bank, the military conducted 2,277 arrests over the past year, a slight decrease from the previous years: 2,328 in 2019; 3,173 in 2018; and 3,627 in 2017.

Israeli troops search for people who assisted a terrorist in the killing of Esther Horgen in December 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Though not included in the statistics released by the military Thursday, the year 2020 also saw the lowest number of soldiers and civilians killed in war and terror attacks in the country’s history. As of Thursday, three people — two civilians and one soldier — were killed in security-related attacks, including Esther Horgen, who was killed earlier this month in a brutal assault outside the northern West Bank settlement where she lived, Tal Menashe.

In 2020, the IDF significantly stepped up its campaign against the West Bank’s local gun production industry, shutting down 50 workshops where it said guns were being produced, compared to 14 in 2019 and four in 2018.

Though there was relatively little large-scale fighting between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip in 2020 — save for a two-day battle in February — the Palestinian enclave remained restive, with 176 projectiles fired at Israel from there over the past year. Ninety of the projectiles, just over half, struck open fields, according to the IDF.

The military said Iron Dome missile defense batteries intercepted 80 out of the 86 other rockets, which were heading toward populated areas, giving the system a 93 percent success rate.

According to the military, over the course of 2020, Israeli Air Force drones clocked some 35,000 flight hours; helicopters flew over 400 sorties, a quarter of them search and rescue operations; and transport airplanes flew over 1,000 missions.

IDF troops uncover mines placed on the Syrian border in what the military says was a failed Iranian attack in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF soldiers had roughly one million in-person doctor’s visits over the past year and over 400,000 online meetings with doctors. In addition, troops met with mental health care professionals approximately 160,000 times, a tenth of those through video conferencing.

Vegetarian and vegan soldiers had a banner year, with 1,875 soldiers receiving non-leather shoes and 2,500 non-wool berets. Some 50 tons of tofu were eaten in the IDF in 2020.

The military also detailed its contributions to the national fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Israeli troops distribute food packages during the coronavirus pandemic in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF played a central role in the government’s response to the pandemic, working with local municipalities to assist residents directly and indirectly affected by the disease. The Home Front Command also ran the national call center and a website that was meant to centralize information about the pandemic and the government’s response to it.

According to the IDF, over 3,000 reservists were called in to assist the Home Front Command in these efforts. During the crisis, the military distributed some 380,000 boxes of food and supplies to citizens throughout the country. In addition to the 1.4 million phone calls answered, the military’s website was visited 7.7 million times, the IDF said.

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