Soldier camp out last month on the lawn in Kibbutz Nir Am, just outside the Gaza Strip..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided on Wednesday to maintain the current number of full-time security guards protecting front-line communities.
The decision reveres a controversial cost-cutting move to eliminate the guards, who work for the communities and whose salaries the ministry subsidizes.
It came after a meeting Ya’alon held with officials from the IDF, its Home Front Command and his ministry, and after he examined research on the issue conducted following this summer’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The defense minister has decided to set a fixed number of full-time security guards in communities located between 4 and 7 kilometers of the Gaza Strip, as recommended by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. Guards bordering those communities, as well as those located between 4 and 9 kilometers of Lebanon and Syria, will receive a raise in their salaries.
“The presence of security guards is significant for residents and their sense of security,” Ya’alon said. “During Operation Protective Edge, we saw that in addition to the assistance they provided security forces, they also formed a source of support for residents for any need that arose.”
At the beginning of October, Ya’alon ordered the IDF to examine security arrangements around southern communities, following his decision to freeze the earlier move aimed at cutting back on the number of security guards protecting communities near the Gaza Strip.
Ya’alon had ordered the Defense Ministry to freeze the planned cutback until January 1, and asked the army and ministry to closely examine security arrangements around southern communities, in light of lessons learned from the recent Gaza war, defense sources said last month.
Avi Naim, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities and head of the Beit Aryeh Local Council in Samaria, welcomed the decision, calling it the “right step that needed to be taken. Now we must examine ways to improve the standing and authority of the guards as a most important security element.”
In recent months, a security guard near Kibbutz Alumim, close to Gaza, apprehended an 18-year-old Palestinian who infiltrated the country from the Strip. The suspect was armed with a knife and a knuckle-duster.
For several months, local authority officials in the South have campaigned to reverse the ministry’s decision to decrease the number of security guards.
The officials said the guards formed a vital component and a last layer of defense against Gazan terrorists.
In June, a terrorist armed with a grenade was apprehended by a security guard between the communities of Moshav Yated and Moshav Sdei Avraham, which border southern Gaza.