IDF soldiers at Gaza border 58.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The IDF has created a new combat unit tasked with guarding air force bases in
the Negev, the weekly military magazine Bamahane reported on Monday.
development comes after sporadic flare-ups in recent years between local Beduin
men and soldiers guarding bases.
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Called the Negev Defenders Division,
soldiers from the unit will undergo advanced firearms training, study Arabic in
order to communicate with the Beduin that live near the bases and take part in
missions in the West Bank as part of their training.
The unit, which will
become operational in the next few months, will become the first air base
protection unit to receive the status of combat unit.
The Negev Defenders
will operate under the command of the air force’s Ground Defenses Branch, and
will be tasked with maintaining continuous security around the
“This is a breakthrough in air force thinking, [recognizing] that
air bases are an asset and must be protected the way that strategic assets are
protected – by combat soldiers,” Lt.-Col. Eli Mualem, commander of the Infantry
and Air Force Ground Defense school, told Bamahane.
“We hope that within
six months, they will defend every air force base in the South,” he
Maj.-Gen. Amir Arabel, commander of the Ground Defenses Branch at
the Nevatim air base in the Negev, said his base was “located in the heart of
the Negev, near the minority Beduin community, not all of whom have a stable
national identity, and some of whom have difficulties in seeing themselves as
part of Israeli society.”
In 2009, an access road leading to the Nevatim
air base was closed to military traffic after a group of officers driving at
night encountered a roadblock made up of rocks and spikes.
year, Suleiman Nasra, a Beduin man living near Nevatim, reported that soldiers
from the base fired over his head after he refused a request to leave a
transport station for soldiers.
The IDF Spokesman said the incident began
after a soldier tasked with guarding the station felt threatened by the man’s
suspicious behavior, adding that suspicions were reinforced when he refused to
The Nevatim base was opened in 1983, following an
agreement signed with local Beduin communities, who left the area of the base
and moved into two towns built for them.
Those who now live near the base
were not party to this agreement.