The military is readying to deploy additional troops to the West Bank and Gaza Strip area ahead of Israel’s potential annexation of settlements and the Jordan Valley, Israeli television reported Friday.
According to Channel 13 news, the military has placed several battalions on standby in case of a violent response to the extension of Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to begin advancing on July 1.
The report said the Israel Defense Forces had not already deployed the troops because it was concerned the move could be met with a Palestinian response and was therefore keeping the reinforcements in reserve.
The network also said the IDF, the Shin Bet and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were all in the dark about Netanyahu’s precise plans, hampering the military’s ability to plan accordingly.
On Thursday, Channel 12 news reported Israeli security chiefs were sharply divided on the possible ramifications of annexation, with the leaders of the IDF and Mossad at odds on whether the move would be met with significant Palestinian violence.
While IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi warned during Wednesday’s security cabinet meeting that annexation could spark shooting attacks and even suicide bombings, Mossad head Yossi Cohen downplayed the military’s predictions of extensive violence, the report said.
Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman reportedly took the middle ground, saying that while there would be a response to annexation, economic conditions were good enough in the West Bank that he didn’t believe there was a Palestinian interest in “breaking the rules of the game.”
While neither Cohen nor Argaman has publicly commented on annexation, Kohavi warned Wednesday Israel could see an outbreak of violence in the West Bank that could easily spread to Gaza.
Without mentioning the controversial plan by name, Kohavi told soldiers during a military exercise in the north they may soon need to shift their attention toward the West Bank should predictions of fighting in reaction to the move prove true.
“You can find yourself in a few weeks in the Judea and Samaria area because of riots and terror,” he was quoted saying in an IDF statement, using the biblical names of the West Bank.
“The upcoming events can develop into fighting in Gaza,” he added, predicting that months of calm with the normally tense enclave could return to intense fighting.
On Friday evening, the IDF said Palestinians in Gaza fired two rockets toward Israel, a day after the Strip’s Hamas rulers warned annexation would be a declaration of war.