Israeli army chiefs, sending a message that "nothing is safe" from surveillance in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, said they would increase the use of elite troops who dress as Arabs and seek out "subversive" Palestinians.
Official acknowledgment on Israeli television that the units actually exist - an open secret for years that was censored from all news reports - led to intense public criticism from all parts of the political spectrum. It even prompted one of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's Cabinet members to threaten his right-wing party's withdrawal from the government coalition.In spite of the furor, the army Sunday stood by its decision, calling the orchestrated lifting of censorship a means "to relay a message to the population in the territories."
"This reportage was a deterring message. Its significance is clear," said Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai, the army spokesman. "Residents of the territories involved in subversive activities with or against their people know that nothing is safe - not the car on the road nor the man who crosses their path."
These units, connected to the Shabak secret police, employed unconventional methods in densely populated Arab cities where large concentrations of troops proved ineffective.