Parents protest IDF decision to move surveillance soldiers nearer to Lebanon border

Amid concerns of a potential attack by Hezbollah in similar vein to Hamas on October 7, mother says she would prefer to see her daughter in military prison but alive

Soldiers are seen monitoring surveillance cameras at a command center at the IDF's Re'im camp in southern Israel, November 5, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers are seen monitoring surveillance cameras at a command center at the IDF's Re'im camp in southern Israel, November 5, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)

Parents of surveillance soldiers in the north have warned that their children will refuse to move to a temporary post closer to the border with Lebanon, saying they would rather see their kids sent to military prison for defying orders than have them placed in unnecessary danger, according to Hebrew media.

Kan News reported on Monday that the soldiers had met with their commanders to express concern that they were not equipped or trained to deal with the potential risks of being closer to the border, where the IDF and Hezbollah have been locked in near-daily exchanges of fire since the war in Gaza began on October 7.

The IDF’s treatment of the surveillance soldiers, the vast majority of whom are women, has been heavily criticized since the war began, when Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 253.

When the attack began, surveillance soldiers near the Gaza border were unarmed and did not have sufficient protection from the terrorists who overran the Nahal Oz base, where they killed 66 soldiers and kidnapped a further six. Fifteen female surveillance soldiers were murdered by the terrorists. Several others were abducted to Gaza.

According to the Kan report, the concerns of the soldiers stationed in the north were not taken seriously in the meeting, and the battalion commander told the troops to calm their parents, who he said had been “harassing” him daily over the matter.

The mother of one of the soldiers, who represents the other parents and was named by the report only as Emily, told Kan that she would not let her daughter make the move, even if it meant she would be sent to military prison.

“It would be better for my daughter to be in jail, but alive with three meals a day,” she said.

Memorial candles line the charred desks in the destroyed command center of the Nahal Oz base, February 23, 2024. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“I sent my daughter to the army in a non-combat position, and I have to be responsible for her fate,” she said. “I don’t want to see my daughter referred to in the past tense.”

“My daughter does not belong to the State of Israel or the army, she is only mine,” Emily added.

The parents have told Kan that the surveillance soldiers are capable of doing their job effectively from their current location, further away from the border.

“How does the army expect them to do their jobs when they’re scared?” Emily said, adding that moving the surveillance soldiers closer to the border would only harm the army because there would be no one left to do the job if they refused to go.

In response, the IDF said that there were already some surveillance soldiers in the temporary post and that there had also been soldiers posted there in the past.

“As part of operational considerations, it was decided to reorganize the surveillance battalions in the north, and as part of this, some soldiers were moved from one battalion to the other and stationed in a temporary post,” the statement said.

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on February 21, 2024. (Rabih DAHER / AFP)

Stationed along Israel’s borders, the surveillance soldiers are referred to by many as “the eyes of the army” as they provide real-time intelligence information collected from observation posts to soldiers in the field, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Following the October 7 onslaught, surveillance soldiers who served along the border with Gaza said they had raised alerts prior to that day of suspicious activity.

The soldiers said they had seen Hamas terrorists training for the sort of attack they launched, but that their warnings to the chain of command had been ignored.

One of the kidnapped soldiers, Cpl. Ori Megidish, was rescued by IDF troops on October 30. Megidish returned to active duty on Monday.

In January, Kan reported that even after the October 7 attack, the IDF had decided not to arm the surveillance soldiers. The army said in response that the issue was still being discussed and in the meantime, soldiers could apply for weapons individually, and their requests would be considered.

With Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force poised and active on the border with Israel, the country’s security system has expressed fear that the terrorist organization would try to carry out an October 7-type attack up north.

Israel has said multiple times that if diplomatic efforts fail to push the Radwan force back from the border as dictated by UN resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, it will be forced to declare war on the Iran-backed terrorist organization.

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