The IDF has issued emergency call up orders to six reserve battalions in light of new dangers on the Egyptian and Syrian borders. And the Knesset has given the IDF permission to summon a further 16 reserve battalions if necessary, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
An IDF spokesperson said intelligence assessments called for the deployment of more soldiers. An army statement highlighted last August’s infiltration from the Sinai north of Eilat in which eight Israelis were killed, and said the subsequent division of that area into two distinct military zones necessitated additional manpower.
According to 2008’s Reserve Duty Law, combat soldiers can be called for active reserve duty once every three years, and for short training sessions during the other two. Rising tensions between Israel and Egypt and the ongoing unrest in Syria caused the army to ask the Knesset for special permission to call up more soldiers, more often.
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the request recently, enabling the IDF to summon up to 22 battalions for active duty for the second time in three years. Already, the army has called up six of them.
“This signifies that the IDF regards the Egyptian and Syrian borders as the potential source of a greater threat than in the past,” the former deputy chief of staff, Dan Harel, said on Wednesday night.
“The army needs a better ‘answer’ than in the past to the threat,” he said, citing Egypt’s deteriorating control over the Sinai, marked by an upsurge in Bedouin smuggling of weapons and other goods. He also spoke of the growing threat of terrorism from Sinai, as exemplified by last August’s infiltration.
The Syrian situation was also highly combustible, Harel said, “and it could explode at any moment… and pose a direct challenge to us.”
Maariv said the army had to decide whether to cancel training sessions for enlisted soldiers or to summon additional reserve units, and it chose the latter; canceling training would mean soldiers would not be prepared in the case of an all-out war.
The IDF spokesperson said all the letters summoning soldiers for reserve duty were sent after the IDF received the approval of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for the larger call-up.
One of the reservists summoned told Maariv he hadn’t expected his call-up letter until next year. Leaving home for more than three weeks is something you have to prepare for, he noted.
Activists from the Reserve Soldiers Forum said they were disappointed time and again by the way the IDF treated its reserve soldiers. The law was supposed to help reservists, but it has been repeatedly bypassed and ignored, they said. “At the end, all that will remain of the law will be its title.”