Soldiers sent to confront asylum-seekers trying to enter Israel from Egypt have been told to take extra steps to protect themselves following the shooting death of a soldier on the border Friday, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.
Netanel Yahalomi, 20, was killed by terrorists in Sinai as he approached the fence to hand African migrants water as they were stopped at the border.
There is growing concern in the Israel Defense Forces that terrorists will try to take advantage of the presence of asylum-seekers on the border to attack IDF soldiers.
In recent months Israel has stepped up its efforts to prevent African migrants from crossing the porous border with Egypt. Migrants stopped at the border have sometimes become trapped, denied entry to Israel and unable to return immediately to Egypt.
Security officials believe terrorists will again try to take advantage of the close proximity of soldiers to the fence to launch attacks, when IDF soldiers bring essential supplies to the migrants.
Several terror attacks have emanated from the Sinai in the past year as terrorists in the largely lawless territory stage attacks near the fence.
Egypt launched a major anti-terror offensive last month after an attack in which 16 Egyptian policemen were killed, but Friday’s shooting showed that militant groups are still able to operate in the peninsula.
Construction of a large, heavily defended fence along the border with Egypt has been stepped up in the wake of the attacks. Though the original goal of the fence was to stanch the tide of African migrants, it has also been touted as an anti-terror measure.
Over 200 kilometers of the border has been fenced but a 20 km. stretch in the area of Friday’s attack remains open and will only be completed by the end of the month. Another 15 km. near Eilat has yet to be completed. The fence will eventually be equipped with cameras and sensors to provide constant surveillance of the border area. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been told that the two missing stretches will be completed by the end of the year or early 2013 at latest.
Israel has criticized Egypt for not dealing with what it sees as a lawless situation in the Sinai, which has been kept as a demilitarized buffer zone since the 1979 peace agreement between the countries. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel intends to present a full report on the situation in Sinai to the United Nations this week.
Egypt maintains that the Sinai Peninsula is an internal Egyptian affair and not an international concern.