The IDF is reviewing its open-fire regulations along the Egyptian border to better defend against increasing attempts by armed infiltrators crossing the frontier, which has been a so-called 'peace border' for the past quarter century.
The new protocol will be accompanied by beefed-up presence along most of the 230-kilometer border with Sinai. A senior IDF officer said Tuesday that the army plans to add a new brigade headquarters in the sector. It will also divert some of the troops from the Gaza Division to the border.
The IDF plans to call up reservists to relieve some of the extra troops it wants to deploy along the Egyptian border, a senior officer said.
The new open-fire regulations were required, the officer said, to deal with the 'dangerous criminal elements' on the border. While the border has been quite porous for decades with Beduin smugglers sneaking in drugs, prostitutes and other contraband, Palestinian terror groups have been recently enlisting them to smuggle in weapons and terrorists traveling out of Gaza into Sinai and then through the Negev to the West Bank.
Currently, soldiers are allowed to fire their weapons only in life-threatening situations. The new regulations, if enacted, would likely give soldiers the ability to fire warning shots and to use weapons while apprehending suspects.
The defense establishment had originally planned an ambitious NIS 1.5 billion plan to beef up the border in the desolate, unpopulated frontier. But a senior officer said Tuesday that this plan had been radically cut down to size and that the IDF was now investing 'only' some NIS 150 million. The money would be used to deploy sophisticated electronic surveillance devices along vulnerable border spots.
The defense establishment also plans to build a robust 15-kilometer security fence from Taba, on the Red Sea, to extend north of Eilat. The rest of the frontier contains only periodic border markings and, occasionally, a simple barbed wire fence.
Senior officers said that relations with the Egyptians had been steadily improving, with contacts being maintained by local field commanders.