The army on Wednesday inaugurated a new brigade tasked with protecting the Red Sea resort town of Eilat and its environs, saying the move represented a growing need in a changing environment.
The creation of the Eilat Regional Brigade, under the aegis of the 80th “Edom” Division, comes as Israel’s border region with Egypt becomes increasingly volatile.
In recent years, several attacks on Israel originated from the neighboring Sinai peninsula, targeting the large desert region to the north of Eilat. Rockets have also been fired at the town from Egypt, though most have landed in Jordan or in the sea.
GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen Tal Russo said the brigade was the final piece needed to secure the area.
“We live in a period of change and upheaval. We are implementing numerous changes, including the foundation of the new regional brigade and a change of our concept of operation,” Russo said at a ceremony marking the brigade’s creation. “The establishment of the Eilat Regional Brigade is the final touch in implementing the changes that will improve security in the region.”
Israel is also building a wall along its long, porous border with Egypt, with the dual role of keeping out terrorists and African migrants.
While the tide of Africans has stemmed to a large degree, Israel saw an uptick in terror originating from Egypt over the last two years as groups reportedly from Gaza and elsewhere took advantage of the lax security in the mountainous peninsula.
In August, Egypt launched a wide offensive aimed at stanching the groups’ ability to operate, after a terror cell killed 16 Egyptian policemen near the Gaza border before crossing the border to Israel in an armed vehicle and unsuccessfully attempting to carry out an attack.
The area had previously been used as a demilitarized buffer zone, as stipulated in the Camp David Accords
Edom Commander Brig. Gen. Nadav Padan said the unit’s establishment was partially predicated on the rise in terror in the area.
“The changes in the region and the influence of Gaza-based and local terror organizations, pose new operational challenges,” he said.
Home to some 50,000 people, Eilat hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and is among the country’s top tourist destinations.
The resort town is also only a few kilometers from the Jordanian border, thought that frontier has remained mostly quiet over the last several decades.
Col. Roei Be’eri, who will command the new regional brigade, said he was certain the soldiers would “live up to the upcoming tasks and challenges.”
“The task that lies ahead is to protect the residents of Eilat and its environs, providing them with an improved sense of security,” he said.