Anxious residents watch IDF leave Gaza Strip area

Soldiers will remain only in communities closest to border with Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave

Israeli soldiers rest in southern Israel along the border with Gaza (background), August 06, 2014. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers rest in southern Israel along the border with Gaza (background), August 06, 2014. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The IDF began pulling troops out of communities near the Gaza Strip on Sunday, leaving local residents to organize their own guard duty and security responsibilities, a move unpopular with those living in the vicinity of the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

Soldiers are to remain on patrol along the border fence and will continue to guard three communities that lie within a kilometer of Gaza: Kibbutz Netiv Ha’Asara, Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.

The IDF announced the pullout last week, prompting residents to demonstrate against the move.

IDF troops, in addition to manning front gates and patrolling perimeter fences, had been conducted regular patrols within the villages

“This is an unfortunate decision that detracts from the sense of security of residents living near the border,” Alon Shuster, head of the Shar Hanegev Regional Council, was quoted by the Ynet news site as saying.

“The full and sole responsibility for the safety of the citizens of Israel is with the IDF, the Defense Ministry, and the Israeli government,” he added.

Shuster called for a rapid development of increased security measures reportedly in the pipeline, including a massive physical barrier, new methods to detect cross-border tunnels, and protection against short-range rockets and mortar fire.

During and after the summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas-led fighters, IDF troops were deployed to Israeli communities near the Gaza border that were thought to be targets of infiltration attempts.

The towns were also subjected to heavy mortar and rocket fire from Gaza.

According to the IDF spokesperson, the decision to withdraw forces was made in cooperation with heads of local councils.

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