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Monday, September 22, 2008
IDF soldiers from Coordinator of Government Operations in the Territories return to Gaza front

IDF soldiers from coordinator of the government's activities in the
territories return to Gaza front
Dr. Aaron Lerner 21 September 2008

Yediot Ahronot military affairs correspondent Yossi Yehoshua reports in
today's edition that Maj. Gen. Gilad, new Coordinator of Government
Operations in the Territories, has decided to return the offices of the
Coordinator of Activities in the Territories to the Gaza front, near Erez.

See the article below from 25 May about the previous withdrawal.

IDF soldiers to be moved from base near Gaza amid terror threats
In unprecedented decision, army instructed to evacuate soldiers serving near
Erez crossing due to volatile security situation in area. MK Orlev: This is
a cowardly act. Those who run away from terror - terror will chase after
them. Are they also planning to relocate Sderot, Kfar Aza and Ashkelon?
Hanan Greenberg YNET Published: 05.25.08, 17:35 / Israel News

For the first time since the disengagement plan, soldiers are being
evacuated from a base near the Gaza Strip due to the security situation in
the area, Ynet has learned.

Major-General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of the government's activities
in the territories, has instructed the army to temporarily relocate the
soldiers serving in the Coordination and Liaison Authority near the Erez
crossing to the Julis base, located about 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) away
from the Strip.

This unprecedented decision sparked a great deal of criticism in the IDF.
"(The decision to evacuate the base) is an admission of our failure to
protect the lives of our citizens and soldiers," an army official said.

"The army and members of the security establishment should be at the front
and serve as a buffer between the enemy and our civilian population. It is
wrong to evacuate them because of a threat. What will the residents of Netiv
Ha'asara, who live near the base, say? They will justifiably demand that the
State evacuate them as well."

The decision to evacuate the base was reached prior to last week's attempt
to launch an attack at the Erez crossing with the use of a truck bomb.

The evacuated soldiers will continue with their work, including the
coordination of the transfer of Palestinians and goods to Gaza, from the
Julis base. A small number of soldiers will remain at the base near Erez.

The base near the Erez crossing was exposed to terror attacks prior to
Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Strip. The IDF particularly
feared that terrorists would transfer explosives to the base through an
underground tunnel and then set them off.

'Like waving a white flag'
Following the disengagement, the base was relocated to the upgraded Erez
crossing, which contains fortified structures. Millions of shekels worth of
additional fortification apparatus was brought to the base.

The base that is slated for evacuation has become a favorite target for
terrorists since Hamas' violent takeover of the Strip in June 2007, with
more than 200 mortars and rockets of various kinds fired in its direction.

The Zikim army base, located south of Ashkelon, was not evacuated even after
a Qassam rocket attack last September left some 70 soldiers injured. Other
bases that were also exposed to terror threats were not evacuated for fear
of the message such an act might send to the Palestinians.

The office of Maj.-Gen. Mishlav said that "in light of the security
situation at the Erez crossing the coordinator decided to temporarily
relocate the soldiers to a home front base because there is no point in
jeopardizing their lives. The decision is temporary and may change according
to security estimates."

Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (National Union-NRP) said in response to the
decision "Those who run away from terror - terror will chase after them. The
solution of relocating an entire IDF base is a cowardly one. Are they also
planning to relocate Sderot, Kfar Aza and Ashkelon?"

MK Otniel Schneller of Kadima called the decision to evacuate the base "a
show of weakness", adding that it is "akin to waving a white flag in

"This is not characteristic of the IDF. This is a show of weakness by people
and commanders who do not understand what the IDF stands for," he said.

MK Danny Yatom (Labor) was less critical of the move, as he claimed the
soldiers being evacuated were not combat soldiers. "I can't see any reason
to make claims against the security forces for moving these soldiers, who
are not combat soldiers, elsewhere. It shouldn't be perceived as the waving
of a white flag," he reasoned.

'Disgrace for IDF'
Residents of the southern town of Netiv Haasara were shocked by the
decision. Chairman of the town's security committee, Ziv Volk, said that it
constituted "impudence, gall, and disgrace for the IDF and the State of
Israel." He thought for a moment and then added, "Actually, nothing
surprises us anymore.

"We have been under fire for three years now, since the pullout. We have had
ministers, Knesset members, and security officers from the very highest
levels visit us and promise to protect us, but in the end they run away.
When the State makes such a decision it is shameful," Volk said.

Residents of Netiv Haasara also commented upon the decision. "This means we
are staying here alone," one resident remarked. "It leaves us vulnerable to
other infiltration incidents." Another resident commented that "perhaps next
they will give us rifles or mortars to shoot at the Palestinians ourselves."

Alon Shuster, head of Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, was also upset by the
decision, especially since no one had informed him ahead of time.
"Unfortunately nobody thought to update us and we learned about the decision
from Ynet. The decision may not have an operational impact, but it certainly
has psychological repercussions," he said.

Meanwhile, the IDF is continuing to asses the damage done to the crossing
following the attempted truck bomb attack. Army officials said the cost of
renovating the site may exceed NIS 2 million (about $600,000).

The renovation works at the Kerem Shalom crossing, which was attacked by
Palestinian terrorists in Passover, have yet to commence. The security
establishment does not plan on reopening the crossing anytime soon.

Amnon Meranda contributed to the report

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