Yishai: Ban soldiers from contact with migrants

After soldier killed in Egypt border attack, interior minister says soldiers shouldn't endanger lives for sake of African migrants.

September 23, 2012 10:48
2 minute read.
Eli Yishai

Eli Yishai 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

The IDF must immediately ban all contact between IDF soldiers and African ‘infiltrators’, which poses a threat to their lives, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Sunday.

“The IDF must put forward a procedure that bans contact with infiltrators - the life of an IDF soldier is not cheap,” Yishai said, before drawing a comparison between the ban and one which restricts IDF soldiers from hitchhiking.

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“We must treat the infiltrators issue just as we did with hitchhiking, which IDF soldiers were allowed to do until it was determined that it poses a danger to their lives.”

On Friday, it was reported that 20-year-old IDF Corporal Natanel Yahalomi was shot and killed by terrorists in the Sinai peninsula after he and other soldiers had left a fortified position to give water to a group of migrants on the Egypt-Israel border.

“The cries of human rights organizations are preferable to the cries of bereaved families,” Yishai said.

Despite the initial reports about the shootout on Friday, during a visit to Yahalomi’s family Saturday night, Colonel Guy Biton, commander of the IDF brigade which patrols in the area along the border where the incident happened Friday said that initial IDF investigations have determined “that there is no connection between the presence of the infiltrators at the border and the incident with the terrorists,” Army Radio reported on Sunday.

Nonetheless, the IDF has issued instructions for troops serving at the border to exercise greater caution when dealing with migrants at the border, due to the fear that terrorists may exploit their presence to slip in undetected.

Yishai's statement came the morning after a group of around a hundred protesters gathered outside Defense Minister Ehdu Barak's house in Tel Aviv where they criticized him for the decision to return 18 Eritrean migrants to Sinai earlier this month, and what they said are IDF orders to not give water or food to infiltrators.

The Ministry of Defense said Sunday that no such orders exist.

The interior minister has been a vocal opponent of African migrants, saying that they carry diseases and pose as great a risk to Israel as the Iranian nuclear program. He has also vowed that he will begin taking steps to deport all of the more than 60,000 African migrants in the country beginning in the coming months.

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