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Outgoing general says IDF to avoid some Arab towns during war maneuvers

Yitzhak Turgeman, who heads the army’s logistics unit, says there is concern over potential impact violent disturbances may have on moving troops to northern Israel

Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Turgeman, the outgoing head of the Technology and Logistics Directorate, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)
Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Turgeman, the outgoing head of the Technology and Logistics Directorate, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces plans to bypass a number of Arab towns in the northern part of the country during potential troop deployments, the departing head of logistics for Israel’s military said in an interview published Friday.

Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Turgeman, Chief of the Technological and Logistics Directorate known by its Hebrew acronym, Atal, told the Maariv daily that the army would avoid traveling through Wadi Ara, a valley highway surrounded by Arab towns, citing lessons from May’s sectarian violence that erupted throughout the country during an 11-day war in the Gaza Strip.

“What I’m really concerned about… is the impact of violent disturbances on internal security and movement of IDF’s transport convoys,” Turgeman said. “It is a factor that I foresee as having significant potential to delay the ability to maneuver IDF troops,” he added.

Turgeman said that alternative pathways that lead to the northern fronts with Lebanon and Syria would be used, instead of the Wadi Ara route the military had planned to use for major deployments.

“We are not afraid [to travel through on that route], but th[is] preoccupation and dealing with Wadi Ara is not worth it,” Turgeman said. “In wartime, the IDF will do what is right in order to bring its units to the war theater as quickly as possible, and we have enough alternatives,” he added.

Still, the logistics chief said the military established new units to secure convoys traveling throughout the country, and those troops would be equipped with riot dispersal means.

Wadi Ara (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Turgeman is leaving the military in some two weeks, after 34 years of service.

His comments came as the IDF conducted a drill in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm this week, a move that was criticized by both residents and some troops who participated, according to reports. The municipality also issued an open letter condemning the presence as “unacceptable and hurtful to residents’ feelings,” according to Reuters.

May saw massive riots break out in many Arab towns and so-called mixed Israeli cities, home to large numbers of both Arabs and Jews, during an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Though not unprecedented, the internecine violence was some of the worst in Israel’s history, bringing to the surface long-simmering conflicts between Arab and Jewish Israelis.

Separately, Arab communities have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly by organized crime.

Arab Israelis blame police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women. The community has also suffered from decades of neglect.

In recent weeks, police have ramped up activity in Arab locales under a major operation dubbed “Safe Route,” arresting dozens of suspects over alleged possession or trade of firearms, drug-related crimes, and traffic offenses.

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