‘This is no longer a border of peace'

Eshkol residents return to normal lives a day after terrorists from Sinai launch daring raid on Kerem Shalom crossing.

Exploded vehicle in Sinai Attack 390 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Exploded vehicle in Sinai Attack 390
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
The day after terrorists stormed an Egyptian military base, killing 15 soldiers before crashing a stolen APC into the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Egypt border, residents of the Eshkol region returned to their daily routines on Monday, with an eye towards the Egyptian border and, like always, the nearby Gaza Strip.
Amit Kaspi, the spokesman for the Kerem Shalom kibbutz said that the worsening situation in Sinai has created an additional security threat that requires more preparedness, but that residents trust the IDF “because we know that they understand that this is no longer a border of peace.”
Kaspi said that while the Sinai border is still 2 km. away from the kibbutz, the border with the Gaza Strip is only a few dozen meters, and that for the kibbutz residents, “it doesn’t matter where the attack comes from. If they’re shooting at us, from the west, the north, the south, it doesn’t matter to us so much as long as they’re shooting at us.”
Kaspi said life had returned to normal Monday morning and that the kibbutz is now “in the “after” stage of the incident”.
He made sure to point out that in spite of the threats from Gaza and Sinai by and large “we have a great quality of life here in a beautiful place, just from time to time there are a few hours that are uncomfortable. I’d say in a sense we’re used to it though.”
Kaspi also expressed some confidence in the new Egypt border fence’s ability to stop further infiltrations, but added “no fence in the world will ever be hermetically sealed. A terrorist who wants to carry out an attack will find a way to do so.”
No Israelis were hurt in the attack Sunday night. IDF sources told The Jerusalem Post that it was possible that the terrorists were looking to abduct a soldier or infiltrate a nearby community to attack residents.
During the attack, the IDF ordered residents of the Eshkol region to stay inside their homes or in safe rooms or bomb shelters, and shut down the 232 highway which runs along the Egyptian border.
The Eshkol council is home to around 12,500 people living on kibbutzim, moshavim and a few residential communities.
The council borders both the Gaza Strip and Egypt, and residents have largely grown accustomed to living in the constant shadow of rocket fire and the occasional infiltration from the Strip.
Home to a around 90 families, Moshav Dekel lies near the Egyptian border, a short distance from Kerem Shalom crossing. The windswept moshav took in a large number of evacuees following the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai settlement of Yamit in 1982, and has eked out a place for itself far on the Israeli frontier.
Moshav secretary Hanan Ami-Bar said residents stayed inside their homes following news of the attack on Sunday night, but most did not head to safe rooms or bomb shelters, in that most of the homes on the moshav were built before 1992, when construction of safe rooms became mandatory in new homes.
Ami-Bar said “someone would need to be irrational not to worry about what’s happening in Sinai or that such an attack couldn’t happen here”, saying there is always the possibility that terrorists could dig a tunnel from Sinai underneath the new border fence and attack the kibbutzim and moshavim of the western Negev.
Ami-Bar said that the new fence does provide a certain measure of comfort for residents, but added “keep in mind that the people who kidnapped Gilad Schalit did so by digging under the Gaza security fence.”
Anan Shion, the head of the emergency response team for Kibbutz Kadesh Barnea on the Egyptian border, said residents are aware of the lawlessness in Sinai and “are waiting for it to come to us, it’s a matter of statistics at the end of the day.”
Kadesh Barnea lies a few dozen kms. south of Kerem Shalom next to the Nitzana border crossing. In mid-June gunmen in Sinai opened fire on border fence workers near Kadesh Barnea, killing one and leaving two more wounded.
Shion said that the fence “at the end of the day is an obstacle”, and not a fool-proof measure, adding that terrorists always have other ways to attack and that at the end of the day it’s not up to Israel what will happen.
“It doesn’t depend on us, we’re not the ones who initiate, we’re always the ones who respond.”
Shion added that residents have returned to their daily routine after last night’s news, “but are keeping their eyes open.”