What was Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield in 2002?
Israeli Military Near Jenin
On March 28, 2002 after a series of terrorist attacks within Israeli cities that cost many over 125 civilian lives, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield (called “Homat Magen” in Hebrew). The goal was to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure developed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), or allowed to operate in territory the PA controls. The operation consisted of moving Israeli forces into Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza for the purpose of arresting terrorists, finding and confiscating weapons and destroying facilities for the manufacture of explosives.
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, speaking to the Knesset on April 8, 2002 gave this summary of the operational goals:
- IDF soldiers and officers have been given clear orders: to enter cities and villages which have become havens for terrorists; to catch and arrest terrorists and, primarily, their dispatchers and those who finance and support them; to confiscate weapons intended to be used against Israeli citizens; to expose and destroy terrorist facilities and explosives, laboratories, weapons production factories and secret installations. The orders are clear: target and paralyze anyone who takes up weapons and tries to oppose our troops, resists them or endanger them – and to avoid harming the civilian population.
Sharon went on to say that Israel was doing these things because the Palestinian Authority had promised and agreed to do them but did not do them. Among Israel’s targets was the terrorist infrastructure in the Jenin refugee camp, the origin of many of the terrorist attacks against Israel. After days of fierce fighting, the terrorist cells were subdued but not without significant casualties. Palestinians claimed a massacre took place at Jenin, but independent observers found no evidence of anything other than a battle in which the terrorists used the civilian population as a shield.