Monday, May 26, 2008

Decision to Move Soldiers from Erez Sparks Anger

Gil Ronen

A reported decision by the IDF to move non-combat soldiers from the Erez crossing to a point out of the range of missiles from Gaza caused outrage Sunday among both Israelis living near Gaza and politicians.

The decision, first reported by Ynet website, was handed down by Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Mishlav decided that the soldiers serving in the Coordination and Liaison Administration near the Erez crossing would be moved to the military base at Joulis, which is located 17 km. from Gaza and is not currently under missile and mortar threat.

"Because of the security situation in the Erez compound, the Coordinator decided to temporarily move the soldiers to a command center in the rear because there is no point in endangering them. The decision is temporary and may change according to assessments of the situation."

The decision reportedly predated the truck bomb attack on Erez last week, which caused extensive damage to the facility.

However, an IDF source quoted in the Hebrew-lanuage Walla news site said that intelligence officials informed the IDF that terrorists have been building a tunnel underneath the Erez base with the intention of setting off explosives and possibly kidnapping soldiers and civilians.

Gaza Belt Residents Angry
Following the report, news outlets have featured quotes from disappointed residents of the Gaza Belt region.

"This is a disgrace," Yuval Peltz of Netiv HaAsara, located a few minutes' drive from Erez, told Maariv-NRG. "The army is evacuating soldiers, and we continue to live here and guard the area. We will not evacuate. To evacuate is to flee," he said. The community's council head, Rivka Saad, said the evacuation was "very worrisome" because it meant that the civilians had now become the front line. "We continue to expect the state to protect us, because we are staying here. We have no other country," she said.

MKs: cowardice, impotence, feebleness
MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said that the decision to evacuate soldiers from the Erez Crossing showed that "the IDF has internalized the government's impotence and would rather not pay in soldiers' lives [to remove the threat]."

National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev said: "he who runs from terror will be chased down by terror. The decision to move the IDF base is one of cowardice. Are they going to move Sderot, Kfar Aza, Moshav Yesha and Ashkelon too?"

MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP) said that "it seems that the IDF forgot that its duty is to protect civilians and not vice versa. He who evacuates IDF soldiers because of proximity to the enemy will eventually abandon the residents as well and betray his duty to protect the State of Israel."

MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima), a resident of Kfar Aza, said that "the decision by the IDF leadership to evacuate female and male non-combatant soldiers from the front to the rear is a blow to morale and weakens the ability of the residents who have been under terror attack for the last seven years." Hermesh added: "I expect the government to understand that time is running out, and it is time to act."

MK Otniel Schneller said he intended to raise the subject before the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. "This is not the IDF," he said. "It is the raising of a white flag of surrender. It is feebleness from people and commanders who do not understand what an army is. If the Chief of Staff approves this, I will ask to be called up for reserve duty and protect the residents myself instead of the soldiers who are evacuated."

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