Following repeated complaints and communications regarding seizure of Palestinians’ money and personal property without providing any documentation, which raised concern regarding looting by IDF soldiers, the military has recently informed Yesh Din of an amendment to the provision governing seizure of Palestinian property. From now on, soldiers would be required to provide documentation of the seizure “unless impossible for clear security reasons”. When documentation is not provided, the force is required to record the seizure, noting that the owners of the items were not provided with documentation and the owners may contact their nearest District Coordination Office (DCO) to inquire after their belongings.
Between 2014 and 2016, Yesh Din helped file more than 20 complaints to the Military Advocate General’s Corps regarding suspected looting of money or items belonging to Palestinians living in the West Bank, including incidents that occurred during operation Brother’s Keeper in June 2014. Some of the complaints involved seizure of large sums of money, jewellery, vehicles, documents and other items. In not a single case did soldiers provide documentation that the items had been seized by the military. So far, none of the soldiers involved in these cases have been indicted and to the best of our knowledge, no disciplinary or command action has been taken against soldiers who seized property without providing any explanation or documentation.
The new operating procedure, designed to distinguish between looting and official seizures, establishes that a seizure report will not be provided only in exceptional cases “in which the forces face operational constraints”, which preclude provision of the documentation, such as risk to the soldiers’ lives or mission secrecy. In those cases, the owners of items that had been taken may contact the DCO to inquire whether their belongings had been seized, and receive documentation. Incidents in which items are seized without the owners’ being provided with documentation, but there is no suspicion of looting, will be handled by the commanding officers.