“We are not trying to boast but if something like the Mumbai attacks had happened here, it would have been over in a few hours,” says Nicky Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli national police, about the 2008 terrorist strikes that had continued for more than 60 hours before the 10 terrorists had been killed or overpowered.
The confidence stems from having mastered the art of policing in some of the most difficult circumstances. Rosenfeld was speaking at the police station that serves at the Intelligence and Surveillance Centre in the old city of Jerusalem, undoubtedly one of the most volatile areas of the world where the smallest of conflicts can potentially flare into an international crisis.
The old city, spread within a radius of about a few kilometres, is a walled area and home to some of the holiest shrines of Jews, Muslims and Christians, some of them on overlapping plots of land. Relations between the communities themselves are tense, though they live and do business with one another in the busy, narrow and up-and-down by-lanes of stone, which can be traversed only on foot. Every now and then, there is trouble, mainly from the Muslim community that strongly resents the control of Israel, a Jewish country, over Jerusalem.
Policing the area has to be effective, preventive, and yet done in a manner that does not permanently disturb the normal, tension-filled lives of the inhabitants, a large number of whom are orthodox believers of their respective religions.
“We depend on technology as well as a large presence of uniformed and undercover policemen to patrol the area. The usual response time to an incident is between two and 10 minutes. If required, additional forces, including horse-mounted officers, can be summoned within an additional 10 minutes. The idea is to take control of the situation immediately without letting it spiral out of control,” says Rosenfeld.
“And all this has to be done with minimum use of force,” he says. “We never use lethal weapons. It is not allowed. The policemen and women are allowed to shoot only in life-threatening cases. And generally after every incident in which an officer has had to open fire, there is an internal review to investigate whether the shooting was justified or not.”
As many as 320 surveillance cameras are installed in the old city and can keep an eye on almost 90 per cent of the entire public space. The surveillance centre