The quiet the Israeli public has enjoyed over the past few years is not a magic trick. It is achieved through hard, daily—nightly, for the most part—work that integrates intelligence and operations that ultimately depend on soldiers like the one from the elite Duvdevan Unit who was critically wounded in Ramallah on Thursday.
This activity remains unseen by the average Israeli. Not because it is secret, but because it is nothing unusual. In effect, we are talking about thousands of missions a year for many years since “Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002, when the Israel Defense Forces retook operational control of all of Judea and Samaria.
It is a tactic that has come to be known as “mowing the lawn.” The idea behind it is that to avoid confrontations with large-scale terror organizations, like the ones behind the deadly suicide bombings of the Second Intifada, we need to arrest wanted terrorists in the early stages of their activity before they gain experience. Or, at the very least, after the first attack they perpetrate.
This was the reason for the mission early Thursday morning in the al-Amari refugee camp. The IDF carried out routine arrests of terrorists based on intelligence provided by the Shin Bet security agency. The Duvdevan Unit, which specializes in undercover urban warfare, is one of the main forces charged with executing these actions. It has a long operational record, some of which involve highly complex and dangerous missions. Last year alone, Duvdevan was involved in more than 100 raids and thwarted many planned terrorist attacks.
Usually, these operations end without incident. The troops get where they need to go, make the arrests and leave without encountering resistance. When they do meet resistance—sometimes even armed—the IDF’s huge advantage almost always means the mission can be completed without any harm to Israeli troops.
Thursday’s incident was an aberration, and it did not happen because anything went wrong. It was a high-risk mission, and a stone slab thrown off a roof caused major damage despite the fact the soldier it hit had all the requisite protective equipment.
Duvdevan has recently received some negative publicity, including for an incident in which a soldier playing with his weapon shot and killed one of his comrades. The reports shed light on an unacceptable practice in the unit. In addition to the commanders taking steps to put an end to these games at the order of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, the military must preserve its high, unique operational abilities.
The action on Thursday, despite its cost, was part of that and there is no substitute for it.
If Duvdevan and other special forces units do not carry out nightly operations in Judea and Samaria, the citizens of Israel will once again encounter terrorist attacks outside their homes.