IDF forms Arabic-speaking unit to guard Negev bases

The unit will become operational in next few months; will become first air base protection unit to receive status of combat unit.

October 12, 2010 02:59
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers at the Israel-Gaza border.

IDF soldiers at Gaza border 58. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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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.

The 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 bases.

“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 added.

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.

Earlier this 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 identify himself.

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.

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