The IDF announced Tuesday that by the end of next month, it would stop deploying soldiers to protect 22 border communities along the Lebanese and the Gaza-Sinai borders. However, the decision would not affect West Bank settlements, which fall under the Central Command’s jurisdiction, Israel Radio reported.
A security official said front line communities would still be protected, but by military equipment that has improved in recent years rather than by soldiers. Protecting the border communities costs tens of millions of shekels each year, but the decision was apparently made as a result of operational and structural decisions and not due to cost, according to the report.
The IDF’s Southern Command has, for years, deployed dozens of soldiers to the entrances of nine communities near the Gaza-Egypt border. Similarly, the army’s Northern Command has troops near 13 front line towns close to the Lebanese border.
The decision was made by the IDF’s Operations Directorate following an assessment. Enhanced border security measures, such as patrols, lookout posts and electronic sensors, made the presence of the soldiers inside the towns less necessary, the army’s evaluation showed, the IDF source said.
The army will continue to protect settlements in the West Bank because the nature of the threats facing them are “more scattered” in nature, and thus require manpower on the ground, an army operations source confirmed.
Some mayors of towns in the Gaza vicinity responded to the news with frustration, claiming that the need to save money shouldn’t be at the front line communities’ expense.
Alon Schuster, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, told Ynet News that the presence of soldiers in the communities dramatically boosted residents’ sense of security. Moreover, he said, they could prevent terrorists who infiltrated the communities from carrying out serious attacks.