The Israeli military has said that it is planning to curb the number of highly controversial night raids on Palestinian homes which for decades have been the cause of fear, trauma and, occasionally, death for Palestinians living under the state's brutal military occupation.
Such raids entail soldiers rousing families in the middle of the night to document the dimensions and inhabitants of homes in the occupied Palestinian territories. Soldiers call this "intelligence mapping".
Citing figures from Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, Haaretz reported that, in 2020, Israeli security forces carried out at least 3,000 night raids in Palestinian towns and villages. They entered at least 2,480 homes. And that was a relatively quiet year.
Israel claims that the raids are essential for intelligence purposes, but rights groups have slammed the practice, insisting that the goal is to oppress and intimidate the Palestinian population and increase state control. Like checkpoints and the separation barrier, the raids are part of the DNA of the occupation, say critics.
It is not clear why the occupation authorities have decided to curb the practice. According to Israeli reports, the decision was made following security assessments and improvements in intelligence gathering techniques. Under the changed policy, night raids will still be carried out but only after getting the go ahead from a more senior chain of command, and in the event of a particular operational necessity.
The change follows a damming report by Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights Israel and Breaking the Silence. A Life Exposed documents the practice of these raids and concludes that the "harm caused by home invasions is particularly severe as it robs individuals, families and communities of the fundamental certainty that their home is their castle."
Calling the decision "very significant," Yesh Din's executive director Lior Amihai said that, "Home invasions are inherent to the apartheid regime in place in the West Bank and we will continue to expose and challenge this and other practices until human rights are respected for all."
Breaking the Silence Executive Director Avner Gvaryahu added that it was "an important outcome" of the groups' report. "Fundamentally, though, this is not going to bring an end to the occupation or harm to Palestinians."