Operation Defensive Shield ( Hebrew name 'Homat Mahgehn [Homat Magen] חומת מגן- literally "Defensive Wall") was undertaken between March 29 and April 17 2002 (or May 10 by other accounts) by the IDF to stop repeated terror attacks from the West Bank. Operation Defensive shield was a decisive turning point in the Second Intifada, though it did not stop terror attacks immediately. It is also an important operation for students of military strategy, since it is one of the better examples of successful counter-insurgency action as well as illustrating how to fight in built up areas without incurring excessive casualties and without mass carnage inflicted by air power, as was done, for example, by the United States in Fallujah.
Background of Operation Defensive Shield
In September of 2000, Palestinian leaders initiated what they called the Second Intifada, a series of riots that rapidly escalated into violent terror attacks including suicide bombings. Following a particularly violent suicide bombing on June 1, 2001 that massacred 21 young people in the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium Discotheque (see Disco Bombing) and a second bombing at the Sbarro Pizza stand on August 9, 2001 in which 15 people were killed, there were rumors of a planned large scale Israeli attack on sources of the terror attacks in the West Bank. However, European and American diplomats repeatedly urged restraint on Israel. During the entire period, there was at least formally a commitment to continue the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered to resume negotiations if there could be just seven days without a terror incident, but there was no such week. Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat generally condemned such bombings in English and offered cease fires. Evidence collected during Defensive Shield showed, however, that the Palestinian authority was paying for suicide bomber vests and Arafat himself was signing the salary chits of terrorists.
In the month of March 2002, Palestinian terrorism peaked. During the month of March IDF stepped up raids against Palestinian terror targets even though General Zinni had come to facilitate negotiations on March 14. About 200 Palestinians were killed. At the same time, PM Ariel Sharon offered to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately, without waiting for a period of seven days of calm. Over 100 persons were killed in various terror operations. The most notorious of these was the suicide bombing of a Passover Seder in the Park Hotel on the evening of March 27, 2002, in which 30 people ultimately died.ref Again, Palestinian Authority officials condemned the bombing in official English language announcements, but lauded the attack and the attackers in Arabic language media.ref Hamas took "credit" for this bombing, claiming that it was aimed at derailing the Arab League peace initiative that was launched at about this time. Yasser Arafat offered the usual cease fire and condemnation of the attack.ref, ref While a great deal of attention is focused on this bombing, histories often neglect to note that bombings continued on the following days. On March 29, following Arafat's cease fire call, a woman suicide bomber belonging to Yasser Arafat's Fatah affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades blew herself up in a Jerusalem supermarket ref killing 2, and on March 28, a terrorist had infiltrated Elon Moreh settlement, killing three Israeli civilians. ref
Summary of Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was announced March 29, but it is probable that actual preparations began previously. By April 3, the IDF was conducting major military operations in all Palestinian cities with the exception of Hebron and Jericho. The major points of conflict were: Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah. The major action ended in mid-April. At that time, foreign correspondents were allowed to enter most of the battle areas. However, a siege continued for several weeks around the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, where wanted militants had barricaded themselves and hostages. Approximately 20,000 soldiers may have participated in the operations. At the end of the action, a total of 497 Palestinians (by UN estimates) died, hundreds were captured, thousands were wounded. 29 Israeli soldiers had died and over 100 were injured. 4,258 Palestinians had been taken prisoner, including 396 wanted suspects.
The stated goals of the operation were, in the words of then PM Ariel Sharon,
In addition to arresting and killing terrorists, IDF hit command centers of the Palestinian Authority that were abused to organize terror operations, and confiscated or destroyed computers and their electronic databases. Numerous wanted terrorists were captured or killed, and as well as large quantities of arms and documents. Notably, IDF captured documents showing that Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat had signed salary chits for known terrorists, and that the Palestinian Authority treasury had paid for illegal arms, suicide bomber vests and explosives. Data captured during the raids facilitated capture of terrorists and thwarting of terror attacks in subsequent months.
Prior to the operation, neither the United States nor the UN or the EU had done anything substantial to thwart the repeated terror attacks. During the operation, U.S. envoy Admiral Zinni was in Israel and met several times with the Israeli government, facilitated negotiations and pressured Israel to end the incursion. Israel acceded to his request for a meeting with Yasser Arafat. U.S. Secretary of State Powell was sent to Israel initially with the mission of ordering Israel to put a halt to the operation, this was eventually modified. Nonetheless, Israel felt clear pressure from the U.S. and the international community to end operation Defensive Shield as soon as possible. These considerations weighed on operational planning and caused Israel to end the operation without achieving all of its goals. During the fighting, in order to pressure Israel into ending the operation prematurely, the Palestinians fabricated a story of a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp, claiming that 500 civilians were killed. Funeral films were fabricated. In one of them, the "corpse" fell off the stretcher, got up and got back on the stretcher. ref As detailed below, eventually, the IDF was cleared of the absurd massacre charges by both the UN and Human Rights Watch. But the pressure helped to end the fighting early and the allegations of a "massacre" in Jenin were never fully retracted.
Achievements and failures in Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield is often credited with dealing a decisive blow to the Palestinian terror apparatus. In the months following the operation, terror attacks never attained the ferocity and frequency that they had reached in in March of 2002 (a detailed discussion is below) but the violence did not really abate until after the death of Yasser Arafat, and the truce concluded with Mahmoud Abbas in 2005.
Operation Defensive Shield did not include Hebron, and therefore the entire apparatus of the radical Hamas movement was left untouched.
In surrounding the Muqata, where Yasser Arafat was holed up with his advisers and several wanted men, the Israeli government evidently thought it would bring about the surrender of Arafat and dissolution of the Palestinian Authority. Instead, Arafat turned the siege into a media event that gave him publicity around the world and boosted his waning popularity among Palestinians.
The massive trashing of computers, confiscation of documents and destruction of police centers aimed an important blow at the organization and administration of the terror campaign. However, it also destroyed the ability of the Palestinian Authority to govern. This had a number of consequences. Chaos began to rule the Palestinian street, and funding and organization of terrorists fell increasingly into the hands of Iran and its radical organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, it is probably not justified to conclude that this disorganization is what caused the further radicalization of Palestinian society. The Hamas came to power in Gaza. The IDF did not operate in Gaza during operation Defensive Shield.
IDF performance was mediocre. Relative to the performance of most armies against asymmetric threats it was outstanding (for example, compare to American failures in Iraq) but that judgment is only relative. After the Second Lebanon War it was painfully apparent that the Palestinian terror groups were amateurish and poorly armed by comparison with the Hezbollah in Lebanon and that much of the success of Defensive Shield was due to the fact that IDF was not fighting a real army. The relatively small numbers of captured terrorists indicate that IDF was far from successful in eliminating the terror organizations. A large number of wanted men remained wanted and at large, and an even larger number of terrorists probably never got into the lists of wanted persons. It may be impossible to do better given the propensity of terrorists to melt into the population, but that being the case, the value and possible achievements of military operations of this type must be evaluated accordingly.
In Jenin there was a minor operational failure that led to a major command failure, but appropriate measures were apparently not taken. A group of soldiers had accidentally wandered into an area where they were not supposed to be. Thirteen were killed in an ambush. Since they were not following the plan, there was no reason to halt operations or to change the plan, but that is evidently what was done. In order to prevent further casualties, bulldozers were used somewhat more indiscriminately than before to destroy houses, and less care was taken to guard civilian lives.
Barring of reporters from the Jenin battle area helped to fuel uncertainty and aided Palestinian claims about massacres and rights violations. From the point of view of strategic considerations, the human rights Issues raised in the Jenin operation should have raised a red flag. The pattern was established whereby Palestinians or other guerilla forces could implant themselves among the civilian population and then fabricate or exaggerate human rights atrocity stories. The charges are clearly not a side issue, though they have been treated as such by the IDF. Human rights charges were raised in the Second Lebanon War, throughout the conflict in Gaza and in Operation Cast Lead.In all three operations, raising the specter of "massacre," rightly or wrongly, was a major factor in stopping the operation and frustrating IDF objectives, and therefore it must be recognized as a strategic threat and dealt with accordingly. IDF planning has failed to recognize the problem of adverse publicity from real or imagined rights violations or to deal with it in any satisfactory way.
IDF Units Participating in Operation Defensive Shield
Part or all of the following IDF units took part in operation Defensive Shield:
Fifth reserve infantry Brigade
Reserve Brigade 55 (Paratroops)
408th reserve infantry brigade ("spearhead")
Jerusalem Brigade (reserves)
Flotilla 13 (Shayetet 13) commando unit
Engineering Corps - which provided bulldozers and other assistance.
It is probable that the special Shaldag IAF commando unit (Unit 5101) participated as well, but the existence of Shaldag was classified until the Second Lebanon War.
Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin
Jenin refugee camp housed about 13,000 people, most of whom had come to the West Bank from Jordan after the formation of the Palestinian Authority. The entire camp is about 600 meters long and forms a part of the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank (Samaria). During the Second Intifada, Jenin became a central base for terror groups and terror attacks mounted by several organizations, notably the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the National and Islamic Front formed by Marwan Barghouti and the Hamas. At least 23 successful suicide attacks and 5 or 6 more that were thwarted originated in Jenin. The attacks were aimed mostly at Northern Israel - Afula, Nahariya, Haifa, Umm el Fahm, but on March 21, 2002 terrorists originating in Jenin launched a suicide attack in Jerusalem and on March 30, 2002 they were responsible for a suicide attack in Tel Aviv.
About 1000 IDF troops entered Jenin refugee camp in three directions on April 2, after repeatedly calling on all civilians to leave. The number of civilians who answered this call was not known, so soldiers had no idea how many were left in the camp. This became a factor in combat precautions taken to reduce civilian casualties. According to later estimates, between 1,300 and 4,000 people remained in the camp.
The attack, which had been postponed for 24 hours by rain, was led by soldiers of the Fifth Infantry Brigade, which had not been trained in house to house combat and had just experienced a change of commander. It was soon evident that the entire camp was booby trapped, often with huge bombs. Islamic Jihad terrorist Tabaat Mardawi claimed later that Palestinian fighters had planted "between 1,000 and 2,000 bombs and booby traps" throughout the camp. ref Some of the bombs weighed over 100 KG. A bulldozer sent down the main street of Jenin detonated 124 such bombs in about 3/4 of a mile. ref
IDF faced the following dilemma. A rapid ground attack would clearly be costly in IDF lives, but political pressure from the United States and elsewhere required a rapid end to the fighting. Chief of Staff Mofaz initially promised the fighting would be over by April 6, but that was clearly impossible. Aerial attack would result in numerous civilian casualties if there were still civilians in the houses, so massive aerial attacks were ruled out. By the third day, the Palestinians were still holding out in most of the camp. Seven Israeli soldiers had been killed, but this information was not generally known to the Israeli public.
Ofer Buchris, the commander of the 51st Battalion, developed a method that allowed relatively rapid advance without unduly exposing troops. A bulldozer was used to ram the corner of a house, opening a hole. This ensured the house would not collapse on any inhabitants. It also gave both civilians and combatants a chance to escape. A heavily armored Achzarit Armored Personnel Carrier then backed up to the hole and discharged troops. This method allowed Buchris's unit to advance a bit faster than the rest of the attacking troops.
On April 8, 2002, an IDF unit wandered into a Palestinian ambush by mistake. 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in a battle that lasted several hours and included rescue by the Shayetet 13 commandos. After the ambush, all units began relying on the "Buchris method," using bulldozers and Achzarit troop carriers to clear a path. Palestinian resistance collapsed. The terrorists fell back to the Hawashin neighborhood. As this was cleaned up by bulldozers and Achzariot, they surrendered as well for the most part. Zakaria Zubeidi was one of the few who managed to escape alive without surrendering.
During the fighting, IDF bulldozers leveled an area of about 100 X 200 meters centered around the Hawashin neighborhood where the terrorists had holed up in booby trapped houses. This relatively small area was shown in aerial photos by certain media outlets as if it was the entire Jenin camp.
Allegations of a massacre in Jenin were spread deliberately in order to create pressure on Israel to halt the operation.
Palestinian falsehoods had the following themes:
Claims of carpet bombing of Jenin and Nablus.
Claims of complete destruction of the Jenin refugee camp
Claims that 500 people were killed in Jenin
Claims of mass graves being dug in Jenin.
On April 4 Hassan Abdel Rahman made the following statement on CNN:
Tell me, how is your security served, Mr. Gissin [advisor to Israeli Prime Minister], by not allowing the Palestinians to bury their dead, and bury them in mass graves? Remember when the last time mass graves were used? They were used in Kosovo. And Milosevic today is tried as a war criminal. Mr. Sharon is doing exactly the same thing.
At a meeting of the Arab League on April 6, Nabil Sha'ath declared that Israeli "soldiers had received orders from the Israeli army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz for the complete destruction of Jenin…"
On the same day, Hassan Abdel Rahman told CNN that Israel was performing "blanket bombing today of the cities of Nablus and Jenin, and it is on television."
On April 13, Agence France Presse reported in the name of Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo “that Israeli bulldozers had dug mass graves for around 500 Palestinians he said had been killed there, half of them women and children, he said.”
On April 14, Nabil Sha'ath told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “There has been a cover-up, and bodies have been taken away to clean up. The six days since Jenin massacre have been just a clean-up attempt, to cover up the massacres.” ref
Saeb Erekat told CNN from Jericho on April 10, "You know, the Jenin refuge camp is no longer in existence, and now we've heard of executions there," though Erekat only claimed 500 casualties in the entire Operation Defensive Shield. ref This shameless fabrication was not enough. On April 11, CNN claimed, "The Palestinians are reporting 500 dead," referring to Jenin. ref
The Guardian, ref the BBC and other media outlets anxious to vilify Israel all repeated the fanciful allegations as fact, and many continued to do so even when there were ample data to disprove them. Media canards generated official furor and then the media reported on the public lynch they had created with their own canards.ref
Riding the wave of public sentiment, the UN decided to send a "fact finding mission" to Jenin. Though Israel initially welcomed this mission, it later refused to cooperate, because the UN had decided to send a team of bureaucrats unacquainted with military conditions, who did not have the expertise to judge conditions realistically. A BBC interview with human rights and military expert David Holley, an adviser to Amnesty International, justified the Israeli stance. ref
Eventually both Human Rights Watch ref and the UN ref published reports that showed only about 52-56 people had been killed in Jenin, of whom about half or more were terrorists, and ruled out a massacre. However, both reports indiscriminately used Palestinian evidence, and ignored evidence by Israelis, to rule that Israel had probably committed "war crimes" such as denying medical aid to Palestinians and indiscriminately destroying houses. The reports ignored testimony of Israeli medical officers regarding their efforts to provide for Palestinian casualties, and ignored the fact that Palestinians used ambulances to transport weapons and fighters. Some media nonetheless condemned the UN report because it didn't support the false massacre claim. Justin Huggler of the Independent complained, "UN issues 'seriously flawed' report on Jenin killings. Long awaited investigation repudiates massacre claim and fails to blame Israel".ref
A pro-Palestinian "documentary" movie, Jenin Jenin, perpetuated the massacre claims with doctored footage of fake funerals and false claims of tanks shelling hospitals. In the movie, a hospital was shown with several chips in its facade made apparently by machine gun fire. It was claimed that a tank shell was fired at the hospital. A tank shell would have brought down the building.
An interview with a semi-literate bulldozer operator published later by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot did not help to dispel the image, but even he noted that he did not see any dead people. ref
Operation Defensive Shield in Ramallah
Ramallah is the administrative and commercial hub of the Palestinian Authority. It also contained the Muqata, headquarters of Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat. It was the center for coordinating and financing the Second Intifada, as proven by documents captured during Operation Defensive Shield.
IDF troops entered Ramallah on March 29 and overran most of the Muqata, destroying all the buildings except Arafat's central residence. Arafat and a number of assistants along with wanted terrorists holed up in the Muqata. Arafat himself and Palestinian authority officials who were with him, were protected by American diplomacy, but with them were wanted terrorists including Ahmad Saadat, Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Saadat was wanted for his part in the assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze'evi and other terror acts. Arafat and media dramatized "siege" conditions in candle-lit photographs, but in fact they were supplied with necessities including electricity. An impasse developed. In May, it was agreed that the wanted Palestinians would be transferred to a jail in Jericho to be guarded by an international force, ending the impasse. However, the agreement broke down eventually when Palestinians reneged on their obligations, and the international force abandoned the jail, forcing Israel to raid the compound on March 14, 2006 and remove Saadat and the others.
On April 14, 2002 IDF found the hiding place of Marwan Barghouti and arrested him in Ramallah, and on April 15, they arrested Taleb Barghouti, a relative.ref Marwan Barghouti was secretary of Fatah in the West bank and a leader and organizer of the Fatah Tanzim, the "National and Islamic Front" and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Marwan Barghouti was accused of masterminding numerous terror operations and is currently serving 5 life sentences.
A raid on Jibril Rajoub's Preventative Security headquarters in nearby Bitunia yielded copious incriminating documentation, including a plan by Rajoub to recruit Israeli women soldiers to spy for the Palestinians. ref
Operation Defensive Shield in Bethlehem
In Bethlehem, following the entry of the IDF, a group of 39 wanted gunmen armed with assault rifles and explosives holed up in the nativity church. The group was headed by Colonel Abdullah Daud ref head of Palestinian security in Bethlehem. It held the 46 priests and other personnel of the church as hostages, along with about 200 civilians, including children. The Vatican warned Israel not to to damage the church, which marks the site of the birth of Jesus. ref On May 2, about 10 foreign activists broke into the compound, bring found and encouragement. ref On the 9th of May an agreement was reached, whereby the wanted men were exiled to Gaza and destinations in Europe and hostages were gradually released. refThe siege ended on May 23. Documents captured in Bethlehem showed that Christian Palestinians had been subject to persecution by Fatah and related organizations such as the Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Operation Defensive Shield in Nablus
Parts of the Golani, Paratroopers and Yiftach armored brigade participated in the incursion in Nablus, which supposedly held 8,000 armed fighters in addition to Palestinian security forces. The paratroopers came from the west, the Golani from the south, and the armored division entered from the east. Nablus, especially the Kasbah of Nablus, was considered to be the most difficult city and therefore got the most attention and the best troops. There were few Israelis casualties in Nablus. Troops progressed by blowing up or knocking down walls within houses to get to the next house. Over 70 armed Palestinians were killed, hundreds of prisoners and numerous documents were captured as well as explosives laboratories. IDF also found IDF uniforms and Jewish religious books that might be used to disguise attackers.
Operation Defensive Shield in Tulkarm
Tulkarm was quickly conquered by reserve paratroop battalion 55 with the help of an armored force. The terrorists melted into the population and abandoned their weapons. The mandate era Taggart fort that had been their headquarters was destroyed by an IAF attack. Nine terrorists were killed in the course of the battle. The surrounding villages were also taken and hundreds of wanted men were arrested. A part of the brigade conquered Kabatia, that had been thought to impenetrable.
Operation Defensive Shield in Jericho
Jericho was taken without a any resistance owing to the intervention of local business interests.
Weapons Captured in Operation Defensive Shield
IDF provided the following data regarding weapons captured in operation defensive shield. Many of these weaponsare forbidden by the Oslo accords security arrangements. M-16 rifles were probably stolen or bought from IDF. The criteria for distinguishing "Sniper rifles," "Long rifles," and "rifles with telescopic sight" are not explained, and it is not clear what weapons the "magazines" were for. Considering the large number of bombings and attempted bombings, 30 KG of explosives seems to be a rather small quantity.
Documents captured during Operation Defensive Shield
The thousands of documents found during Operation Defensive Shield were probably the most important aspect of the operation. They provided invaluable intelligence information about personnel, means of financing, direction and other aspects of terrorist operations. They also provided incontrovertible proof of the involvement of Palestinian Authority institutions and of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat himself in the organization and financing of terror. The document below is a letter from from the Secretary General of the Tulkarm Fatah office to Yasser Arafat, requesting funds for a list of Tanzim organization militants involved in planning and carrying out suicide attacks. The letter was forwarded to Arafat by Marwan Barghouti, the head of the Tanzim. Arafat personally approved the payment of 800 dollars to each terrorist. The letter is dated April 1, 2001. During this period and throughout the Second Intifada Arafat vehemently denied that he or the Palestinian Authority had any connection to terrorist attacks. The letter is under the letterhead of the "State of Palestine."
To Brother President Abu Amar [Yasser Arafat], may Allah protect him,
We request his Excellency to provide the sum of 2000 dollars to each of the fighting brethren listed below. The matter is for your consideration.
Your Brother, the Secretary General
[handwritten note near center-left margin:]
The Central Office - Tulkarm - Telefax - 09-XXXXXXX
Additional documents are shown here: Documents Seized During Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield and Terror Incidence
Contrary to popular opinion, Operation Defensive Shield did not eliminate terror in a single blow. ref Following Operation Defensive Shield there was a drop in suicide bombings of about 50% -- from 22 in February-March to 12 in April-May. There was a 70 percent drop in attacks that were executed between the first half of 2002 and the second half (43 in January-June, 13 in July-December). In 2003 there were 25 executed suicide bombings in comparison to 56 in 2002. This was mainly due to interception or other failures in 184 attacks in 2003. There were actually more attacks in 2003 than in 2002. In 2003 there was also a 35 percent drop in the number of fatalities to 142 deaths, from 220 fatalities due to suicide bombings in 2002. ref
As the table below shows, terror fatalities in Israel were reduced dramatically following Operation Defensive Shield compared to the immediately preceding period, but remained unacceptably high. They were further reduced in subsequent years.
Israeli Terror Fatalities - 2001-2004
The spike in attacks in the first months of 2002 was in part attributable to the presence of US envoy Admiral Zinni who was sent to try to resume the peace process. Extremist groups and Marwan Barghouti were interested in foiling his mission. The reduction in attacks following Operation Defensive Shield occurred over a long period, which included other operations such as Operation Determined Path, and the reoccupation of large parts of the West Bank, institution of checkpoints and the construction of the security barrier. The reduction in terror attacks in those years was mostly due to successful interception of suicide bombers and other attackers. This in turn was due to the security barrier constructed after the operation, to numerous other checkpoints that were set up, and to intelligence that was gathered during interrogations following Defensive Shield
February 7, 2009
Harel, Amos; Avi Isacharoff (2004). The Seventh War. Tel-Aviv: Yedioth Aharonoth Books and Chemed Books. ISBN 9655117677. (Hebrew)
Synonyms and alternate spellings: Homat Magen, Defensive wall
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.
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