Itongadol.- The IDF stopped a protest march by dozens of Gaza-border residents which left from Kibbutz Nirim towards an exposed Gaza tunnel shaft, demonstrating against the withdrawal of IDF protection in the area.
GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman signed a directive declaring the area a closed military zone out of concern for the residents\’ safety. The locals are protesting an IDF decision to end military security on Sunday for towns near the border with Gaza.
The IDF soldiers are expected to depart the southern communities and return to their bases on Sunday. The decision was received with wide protests among the residents throughout the week, leading the IDF Chief of Staff to hold a meeting on the necessity of the soldiers\’ presence. The meeting concluded with the decision unchanged.
IDF officials said the soldiers were unnecessary as sufficient defense measures were used to secure the towns. The tensions, however, were not diffused, and on Friday afternoon dozens of residents marched towards the entrance of a terror tunnel exposed on the border with Gaza.
The march was coordinated ahead of time and security was even provided by IDF soldiers for sections of the walk. But shortly before the rally was scheduled to depart, the protesters were informed that Maj. Gen. Turgerman signed a decree declaring they must not approach the border barrier.
The specific area does not generally have an injunction ordering it a closed area, and the decree specifically addresses the participants of the protest. When the marchers arrived in the area, they were stopped by soldiers who ordered them to end the rally.
"There is a crisis of faith between us and the military," complained one of the marchers, Anat Hefez, from Kibbutz Nirim. "The removal of the soldiers only worsens the crisis. There are whole communities on the Gaza-border who depend on the soldiers for security, which allow them to continue their daily routine; now, without the soldiers, we are faced with the threat of substantial danger."
"We\’re only talking about six towns which the IDF is pulling its soldiers from and I do not understand why it\’s so difficult to leave them," said another Nirim resident, Adele Rahmer.
"The tunnel threat is ongoing. Even though Hamas no longer has the motivation to fight, no one can promise the situation will remain as is. There is a crisis of faith between us and the military. We stood strong on the home front to allow the IDF to complete the mission it was given, and now we feel betrayed and abandoned," she added.