In hot pursuit of a stone thrower, an Israeli lieutenant charged into an Arab home and began bashing his night stick down on beds to rouse a suspect. A tiny quiver under one bedcover suddenly stopped him.
Trembling, the officer pulled back the cover and lifted a baby boy from the bed. He gently cuddled the infant and handed him to his frightened mother.Then he bolted out the door.
"He went crazy thinking that if he hadn't stopped banging that stick in time, he would have killed that baby," said Moshe Golan, a reserve paratrooper who was with the officer named Itzik during the angry search for a young Palestinian stone thrower who had injured a fellow soldier.
Nearly a year later Golan recalls Itzik's words as they left the house in the occupied West Bank.
"Moshe, hold me before I collapse. You don't know what I almost did."
The encounter was one of dozens occurring daily as the Israeli army tries to halt the Palestinian uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fifteen months after the revolt began, some soldiers have begun questioning their role in putting down the civilian rebellion.
The questions have surfacd in letters to newspapers and to members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and in one angry exchange with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir when he visited reserve paratroopers in the West Bank.
More than 100,000 Israeli soldiers have served in the occupied territories and the reactions are mixed.
Some feel guilt over harsh methods used against youthful stone throwers, some in their pre-teens. Others feel the army has an undeserved mean image, that in fact soldiers' moral scruples get in the way of effectively halting the revolt.
Many feel ambivalent about their actions. Soldiers tell of being demoralized by confrontations with Arab youths who curse them and hurl stones even under gunfire, making troops feel they are fighting a losing battle. The frustration often makes them lose their tempers.
Combat training, they add, has left them unprepared to fight civil insurrection, where soldiers must hesitate to open fire because their enemies don't use guns. Some soldiers were sent to quell protests while still in basic training.
Golan, who served two months in the West Bank, was among soldiers and army officials interviewed by The Associated Press on the troops' feelings about their role in the occupied lands.
"I feel constant conflict," he said. "After all an Arab is a human being. But even the most moderate guys tend to get this feeling they have to grab the first Arab and take out all their anger on him, to beat him or break his bones."
Golan now is a nature guide.
Doru Ehrlich, a 36-year-old reserve artilleryman, said his service in the West Bank town of Qalqilya left him with the same confusion.
"I have a guilty conscience . . . about doing things like going into homes to arrest people." he said. "You go to conduct an arrest. They're all sleeping on the floor. A small boy wakes up with your gun in his face. I think of my own son."
But Erhlich added that he thought the army had no choice in doing what it has been doing and perhaps should try even stronger measures.
"I've gotten to the point where I'm sick of it all. We have to make a decision. Either get an order to open up machinegun fire on them or to the contrary. But just to get this over with."
Erhlich described an instance where he lost his temper after giving some youngsters candy, then spotting the same children gathering to throw stones at his patrol.
"I wanted to slam somebody I was so angry. It makes you feel like doing things you don't want to do. They get you into such a mood that even if you want to remain human, they don't let you."
Ehrlich said he searched an entire week for one of the boys.
"Finally I found him. I found out where he lived. I even found a hatchet in his house. That kid, when I caught him, I just bashed him in the head. Even if you love children, at that same moment you're going to hit him. It's just because you're there."
Prime Minister Shamir, facing the anger and frustration of soldiers on a visit to troops in the West Bank, tried to encourage the soldiers by blaming the Palestinian Liberation Organinzation and saying Israel's security was at stake.
"They force us to bear arms," he said.
Army officials also have repeatedly said troops open fire only when their lives are in danger from barrages of stones.
Among the six troops killed in the uprising, one has died during a stone-throwing incident. His skull was crushed by a concrete block dropped from a roof. More than 400 Palestinians have died in the revolt, most by Israeli gunfire.
But some soldiers said they rarely felt danger from the stones and added that anger or a hurt sense of national pride could incite them to react violently.
"You feel like you're playing a game of tag - we can run around and make you run after us," said Neil Shergin, 25, an immigrant from Rockville, Md., who spent about two months in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
"They're quite courageous. If I saw a number of soldiers with automatic weapons in their hands I'd be asking what I could do for them and not what I could throw at them."
Soldiers also say that orders on when to open fire or beat protesters are too vague, leaving too much to the discretion of individual soldiers in the heat of a clash.
Controversy over these orders has emerged in the still unfinished trial of four troops charged with beating a 42-year-old Palestinian man to death in the Gaza Strip while conducting an arrest last August.
Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron, the Israeli military chief of staff, acknowledged at the trial that standing orders left "many gray areas."
"There can be some incident where commands are not clear, even with the best of soldiers," Shomron testified. A civilian who resists arrest can be beaten, he said, "but when someone stops resisting, that is a matter of opinion."
Some 50 troops have been formally charged or punished for illegal beatings and shootings during the uprising. The army acknowledges others have been punished by officers in individual units, but no record is available of how many.
On the other hand, about 60 soldiers have been tried for refusing duty in the occupied territories. The small number results from Israelis' pride in their citizen army, in which all Jewish men and women do compulsory duty. Men serve in the reserves until age 55.
The army has started to replace some reserve soldiers in the territories with border police to cut down reserve duty, which rose to 62 days from the normal 42 days last year because of the uprising. They also hope the border police, better trained in riot control, can cut down the number of civilian casualties.
Army authorities have acknowledged that some casualties grow from soldiers' fits of temper.
"I know it happens and we try to prevent it," said Brig. Gen. Ehud Gross, the army's chief education officer who is in charge of a new program to help soldiers cope with their role as policemen.
"This is not a normal situation for military forces who have been fighting for survival for 40 years in real wars," he said. "We have to face something new in which we really cannot use the power we have."