An IDF cost-cutting move has left two Jewish communities without soldiers to guard the entrance to the towns, which are at the edge of the Judean and Negev deserts, commonly used by drug dealers and weapons smugglers.
Both communities, Beit Yatir and Shani-Livnah, are located outside the security barrier, which extends from Samaria in the north to the suburbs of Be’er Sheva in the south. However, the eastern flank of the southern Hevron Hills, where the two communities are situated, remains without a fence or barrier, leaving the area a convenient route for terrorists and smugglers to traffic in drugs, weapons and terrorists.
Residents of the two communities were shocked by the army’s removal of the soldiers with only 24 hours' notice. “An army officer arrived on a recent Wednesday and notified us that the soldiers will no longer be guarding us, beginning from the next day,” Beit Yatir administrator Eliezer Ben-Atar told Israel National News.
He noted that Beit Yatir is part of Judea and Samaria even though it is not inside the three-sided security barrier. A new army base is located adjacent to the northern edge of the community, but Ben-Atar said the soldiers’ duties do not include guarding the entrance to the community.
“Terrorists go where there is no security,” he warned. “If there is an attack, they are more likely to escape into an area where there are no soldiers on guard. Security is meant to prevent a terrorist attack and not to go into effect after it happens.”
Two years ago, two suicide bombers from Hevron used the open desert area to reach Dimona, where they killed two people at an outdoor market. Last year, the army prevented a terrorist attack by capturing Palestinian Authority Arabs who were using a desert trail northwest of nearby Arad, located several kilometers inside the 1949-1967 border.
Tzviki Bar-Chai (pictured), chairman of the Hevron Hills Regional Council, said that the IDF has provided security for Shani-Livnah and Beit Yatir 25 years, and that the military establishment should have given the communities advance notice of more than 24 hours.
He pointed out that the government provides Border Police protection for other communities outside the separation barrier, such as Har Gilo, in southern Jerusalem, and Maaleh Adumin, located east of the capital.
“In one area of the country, the government says there will be no protection while in another area it provides police,” Bar-Chair added. “We are not second-class citizens.”
He has appealed to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and specifically to Likud Knesset Member Zev Elkin to provide security for the areas "before it is too late.”