March of the Mothers protests in Tel Aviv, demands safety for Israeli soldiers

There has been a great deal of criticism from the Israeli public over how Israeli soldiers’ “hands are tied.”

By Gil Tanenbaum/TPS, World Israel News Staff

The organization “March of the Mothers” held a demonstration on Sunday in front of the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. This was the second time that the organization, which is comprised of mothers of IDF personnel, held such a protest calling on the IDF and the Minister of Defense to allow soldiers more freedom to act in response to attacks.

Representatives from the Israeli NGO Im Tirtzu accompanied both protests and took part in their organization.

In August, Israeli Border Police officer Barel Achiya Hadarya Shmueli died at the age of 21, nine days after a Hamas terrorist shot him during riots on the border of the Gaza Strip. Shmueli, a member of an elite undercover unit, was facing hundreds of rioters on August 21 when he was shot.

Since his death, there has been a great deal of criticism from the Israeli public over how soldiers’ “hands are tied” by standing orders that limit their ability to respond to threats with deadly force. The post where the border police were located has come under especial scrutiny as the forces stationed there were forced to shelter inside and avoid confrontation with the rioters.

Last month, dozens of mothers of IDF soldiers, IDF reservists and activists from the organization marched some 15 miles for nine hours one day from Ashdod to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai on the Gaza border. They demanded that the IDF change its rules of engagement in the wake of the death of IDF soldier Barel Shmueli.

“Anyone who has served in the army or has followed the situation on the ground understands the gravity of the situation. The rules of engagement are shackling our soldiers and Hamas is aware of it. The only way we will win is if we adopt a mindset of victory and enable our soldiers to properly defend themselves and the country,” said Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg.

The “Mother’s March” was organized following testimonies from soldiers in Shmueli’s unit about the strict, and at times, debilitating engagement rules that prevented the soldiers from shooting the Gazan rioters who stormed the border barrier, one of whom shot Bareli at point-blank and killed him.

Liron Baruch is an IDF veteran who lost and eye when he was hit in the head with a stone during an IDF operation. He is the chair of the Forum of Disabled IDF Veterans for Israel’s Security. “We see our soldiers hit by rocks, They [the soldiers] continue to get hit [in attacks] and the army isn’t doing anything about it,” Baruch told TPS.”

“Our soldiers, instead of defending themselves, must continue to get hit by stones, and just take it when these incidents happen, and this will cause them to do it [attack soldiers] more often in the future,” he added. “And there are many incidents of soldiers getting hurt and this isn’t even reported [by the army].”

The organizer of the march, Sufiya Nahon, stated that the group demands that the IDF Chief of Staff “immediately change the protocols for [soldiers] to open fire. It should be possible for any soldier to open fire on a terrorist without waiting for authorization.”

“The battlefield is cruel and it would be better for a thousand mothers of terrorists to cry and not one more Israeli mother to cry,” she added.