The IDF will stop securing communities adjacent to the northern and southern borders, the IDF's Operations Branch has decided. A total of 22 towns situated near the Lebanese border, Sinai and the Gaza Strip will no longer enjoy army security. West Bank settlements were not included in the decision, which prompted anger in the Gaza vicinity area.
Security in the border areas is estimated at tens of millions of shekels, however a high-ranking officer said the decision was based solely on operational considerations.
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Army officials had made the decision following a comprehensive situation assessment that reviewed the status of threats on the stipulated areas and the security provided by the army. It will come into effect next month.
The officer explained that security will now be based on "various improved security components" but not on soldiers. "We have not scaled down troops in the Central Command as threats in those areas are more scattered and less focused in one particular direction," he added.
The decision also applies to communities near the Gaza border fence where several infiltrations were noted in the past year despite the employment of advanced intelligence mechanisms. On one occasion, a Palestinian from Gaza broke into a house in Hevel Shalom. He was shot by an IDF force.
Security in the stipulated area was provided by dozens of soldiers who work on rotation. There will be some "procedural changes" in the securing of West Bank settlement but none that will affect the number of troops on the ground.
The decision was met by outrage among residents of the Gaza vicinity area. Defense officials informed local council heads of the move and were met with fierce resistance. "This hurts our sense of security," they said.
Alon Shuster, head of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council said, "The fact soldiers secure the communities significantly improves our sense of security but more than that. If God forbid a terrorist infiltrates a community and encounters an armed soldier it could definitely prevent a serious incident."
Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yalin said the move goes against Zionist values.
Ilan, a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom could not believe such a "bizarre" decision was actually made. "It's not within reason. Soldiers manned the kibbutz's gate, they had control over who entered and who didn't. This decision has far reaching consequences for the community."
Many council heads described the decision as irresponsible. Hof Ashkelon Council head Yair Farjoun said, "It’s unthinkable to abandon the border communities this way and let the residents fend for themselves. I'm sure there has been a mistake."
Yoav Zitun, Matan Tzuri and Ilana Curiel contributed to this report
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