MKs: Why did IDF abandon 2 settlements?

Two southern Hebron Hills locales left without security details for past month.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL,
February 25, 2010 15:36
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers 248.88

IDF soldiers 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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Parliamentarians demanded Thursday that the IDF explain why, after over two decades, two settlements in the southern Hebron Hills have been left without IDF security details for the past month.

Although the IDF confirmed to the Jerusalem Post that security had been abruptly removed from the two communities “following an operational situation assessment,” local residents’ representatives complained that the area was anything but quiet, and that they had been left with no security alternative.

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Hebron Hills Council Chairman Tzviki Bar-Hai said that the IDF’s decision was made abruptly after 25 years of providing security for the two settlements of Beit Yatir and Shani. The two are the southernmost settlements in Judea and lie outside of the projected line of the security barrier, which is still unconstructed in the area. Har Amsha, a nearby community just outside of the Green Line, still receives assistance from the Defense Ministry for  their community’s security.

“I understand manpower, but I cannot understand why of all places they picked there,” said Bar-Hai. “There are communities that are in the Green Line that are also provided with security solutions from the Defense Ministry. It could be a private contractor or it could be Border Police, as we see along the seam line.”

MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) held an urgent meeting Thursday of the Judea and Samaria Subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he chairs after reports of the IDF’s decision surfaced earlier this week. MKs met with community leaders and IDF officers for the first part of the session, and then continued in a closed-door format without the community leaders.

Bar-Hai said during the meeting that the decision was “a matter of human life, and not simply of making a daily commute safer,” and added that in recent months there has been an increase in Molotov-cocktail and rock-throwing incidents, alongside an escalation in attempted terror attacks in Judea and Samaria.

“Drawing on my long experience, I feel that the area is heating up again. So far, the situation has not manifested itself in a high number of casualties, but the rocks and Molotov cocktails are a warning light. We have seen in the past that this is how things begin,” warned Bar-Hai.

Bar-Hai said that he did not believe that the initial decision was “due to a political bias, but rather a lack of a broader perspective” on the part of the IDF. Nevertheless, regarding the Defense Ministry, Bar-Hai said that the decision sat on a delicate “border between selecting priorities and making a political decision.”

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This is not the first time that the IDF has pulled its forces out of settlement defense due to manpower constraints, but the army had heretofore provided security alternatives, particularly private contractors to fill the gap.

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