IDF soldiers are entering Egyptian territory to detain asylum-seekers and turn
them over to Egyptian authorities before they enter Israel, according to a
report released on Friday.
In a press release sent out on Friday, Israeli
NGOs said they feared this report may indicate a new form of “hot returns,” in
which the IDF returns illegal migrants to Egypt shortly after they are caught in
Israel. The NGOs said if this is the case it would constitute a violation of the
international obligations which ban returning people to countries where they
could face persecution.
The NGOs, including Amnesty International Israel,
the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Assaf, Physicians for Human Rights and the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel say they have received reports from an
Israeli reserve soldier as well as asylum-seekers in Israel that say IDF
soldiers “are entering Egypt, detaining individuals as they make their way to
seek asylum in Israel, and then handing them over to the Egyptian security
The press release also asked whether or not such alleged actions
by the IDF were responsible for the fact that only 248 illegal migrants entered
the country in July, a fraction of the number that arrived in the previous
The NGOs said they raised the issue with the IDF in July, and
were told by the legal adviser to the Southern Command, Sagiv Leichtman, that
the army did not resume the “hot return” procedure.
The NGOs said
Leichtman “stressed that this activity does not violate Israel’s obligations
under international law or according to the Supreme Court’s ruling since it is
targeting people who are not in Israeli territory with the purpose of preventing
them from entering and violating Israel’s sovereignty.”
included an affidavit presented by attorney Anat Ben-Dor, in which an IDF
reservist said that in June 2012 he was taken to a briefing given by reservist
soldiers who served at the border site before him, who told him of a new
procedure to stop “infiltrators” before they arrive at the border by stationing
soldiers hundreds of meters inside Egypt.
The reservist said his
predecessors told them that to prevent “infiltrators” from escaping, they would
“give them the illusion that they have arrived to the territory of Israel by not
using aggressive behavior, displays of tension, or threats with our weapons.
They suggested that we receive those that come with the blessing ‘Welcome to
Israel,’ to act friendly, to ask the purpose for their arrival, to offer food
and water and to promise them that a bus will arrive soon to take
The reservist said the soldiers told him the new procedures are
being carried out in coordination with brigade-level commanders, and that they
had received praise from civil authorities about the procedure’s success in
cutting down the number of illegal migrants in recent months.
related an incident that took place a few days later, when he and his fellow
reservists caught three migrants, a few dozen meters inside Egypt, and marched
them several kilometers to a spot where IDF officers handed them over to
He also described arresting a group of 40 people,
including 10 women, some girls and an infant, in a valley inside Egypt, where
they guarded the group for eight hours, before being replaced by brigade-level
The soldier said something went wrong in the liaison with the
Egyptians and the group dispersed at night, with most of them making their way
into Israel. In the press release sent out on Friday, the NGOs said they are in
touch with members of that group who made it into Israel, who told them that
those in their group who were returned are today being held in a police station
in northern Sinai.
A later incident described by the reservist included a
group of 40 Sudanese men, the reservist states, all of whom were returned by
force to Egyptian police.
The IDF Spokesman Office would not confirm if
soldiers are operating within Egypt, but said Friday that “the IDF is deployed
along the areas of the border where the fence has been completed, in order to
stop hostile terrorist attacks, as well as illegal smuggling and
In recent weeks, IDF units have on a number of occasions
had to stop the entry of infiltrators caught trying to illegally enter Israel,
until Egyptian forces were able to come and take them.”
The statement did
not say if IDF soldiers were on Egyptian territory when these incidents took
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