IDF to expand buffer zone along Egyptian border

IDF to expand buffer zone along Egyptian border

Israelis to be kept 300 meters from fence between Kerem Shalom and Eilat

The fence along the Egyptian-Israeli border (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
The fence along the Egyptian-Israeli border (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

With tension on the rise following a series of terror attacks, the IDF is expected to approve a special security order that will prevent Israelis from coming within 300 meters of the border with Egypt, Army Radio reported on Thursday.

The proposed security area will run along Highway 10 — one of the longest roads in Israel, extending nearly the entire length of the border between Israel and Egypt — and effectively place the road off-limits for civilians. Beginning near the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza, the highway runs for approximately 160 kilometers (100 miles) until it intersects with Highway 12 next to Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat.

Anybody wishing to enter the security zone will only be able to do so with special permission from the military commander of the sector.

The road was closed for much of the last 12 months after terrorists infiltrating from Sinai attacked a bus and several cars, killing eight in August 2011. Since then, there have been a number of shootings and attempted infiltrations at the border, including earlier this month, when terrorists killed 16 Egyptian border troops and, commandeering an Egyptian army APC, stormed through the border fence and were only stopped by IDF troops after traveling more than a kilometer inside Israel.

The special security order was approved by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and now is in the final stages of approval through IDF channels, to be signed by Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.

Lt. Col. Tomer Tavor, a high-ranking security officer in the IDF Southern Command, told Army Radio that the order will affect farmers in the area as well as the national parks and nature reserves further south. “The area is heavily touristed, especially on Shabbas and holidays, and that will have to change.”

Egypt has stepped up anti-terror actions in the Sinai since the attack on August 5, launching a large-scale offensive in the peninsula, which is normally kept as a demilitarized buffer zone.

On Monday, the Egyptian Defense Ministry confirmed that 11 terrorists were killed and 23 were captured, along with 11 vehicles, weapons, and boxes of ammunition, including five boxes of Israeli-made ammunition.

The announcement came a day after Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that the Egyptian presidency had reached an agreement with fundamentalist elements in northern Sinai for a one-week ceasefire.

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