Civilian guards to take over crossings

For first time security guards will control inspections at Sha'ar Ephraim, Erez.

erez crossing 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
erez crossing 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
In an effort to minimize the level of contact between soldiers and Palestinians, for the first time in Israel's history civilian security guards will this week take control over the inspection process at two major crossings from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On Monday, the Mikud security company will begin inspecting Palestinians and their merchandise entering Israel at the Sha'ar Ephraim crossing near Tulkarm. On Thursday, another security company will begin running the inspections at the Erez terminal outside the Gaza Strip. Both companies won a tender last August to conduct the inspections in place of soldiers. Security officials said the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police would still maintain a presence at the crossings, stressing that the civilian companies would operate under their supervision. Last month, Defense Ministry director-general Ya'acov Toren signed a memorandum with US Ambassador Richard Jones regarding the use of private security companies at the crossings as well as the installation of special scanning devices to expedite the movement of people and goods from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "The defense establishment will still maintain overall control at the crossings," an official from the office of the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories said. "The goal is to lower the level of friction during the security checks, humanize the process and improve the level of service." Defense officials said the civilian guards underwent rigorous training to prepare them for the new job, including psychological and behavioral sessions directed by the Defense Ministry. In addition to the personnel changes, the Defense Ministry announced plans on Sunday to install special scanning devices at the crossings. Similar in shape to metal detectors, the "Safe View" devices use state-of-the-art sensors that provide an image of a person and any illegal objects they might be concealing. Last year, the device was harshly criticized by pro-Palestinian activists, who claimed that the system "undressed" people and violated their privacy. Defense Ministry officials rejected the criticism on Sunday, stressing that the device did not undress a person but only provided a scanned outline of the person without their faces. "There is no violation of privacy," an official said. In addition to the Safe View scanners, the Defense Ministry also plans to install four mobile scanning devices at the Sha'ar Ephraim, Karni, Kerem Shalom and Tarkumiya crossings in an effort to expedite the inspection process. The first scanner will be installed at the Karni crossing on Saturday.