Itongadol.- A senior Israel Defense Force officer said Thursday that the army is planning to build a much larger fence on the Gaza-Israel border, and commended the IDF’s conduct during the September 2014 incident in which Ethiopian Israeli Avera Mengistu crossed into the Gaza Strip, but said that “a situation like this shouldn’t happen.”
IDF planning larger Gaza fence, but says illicit border crossing inevitable
Ten months after Mengistu climbed over the border fence from Israel into Gaza, the officer, stationed in the Gaza Division, said that the IDF contingent dispatched to the scene at the time acted sufficiently and in accordance with orders.
According to the IDF’s investigative report on the incident, soldiers from a remote surveillance unit noticed an individual approaching the border fence and immediately diverted a patrol to the scene. The IDF report notes that the soldiers arrived on the scene as Mengistu was climbing the fence, and proceeded to fire warning shots into the air.
“I think the soldiers did all they could to prevent him from crossing,” the senior officer told Haaretz. The report also notes that the soldiers then found Mengistu’s backpack nearby. They examined its contents and realized that he was likely an Israeli citizen upon finding a Hebrew Bible. Until that point the soldiers believed he was a Palestinian attempting to return to Gaza.
Following this incident, and a subsequent incident in which another Israeli citizen, a Bedouin from the Negev, crossed into the Gaza Strip, the IDF has altered its internal operational protocols for such situations.
“We changed what needed changing. It’s not supposed to happen, and as an army, we need to ensure that it doesn’t happen,” said the senior Gaza Division officer. “At the same time, we did all that was possible to prevent it. If someone is bent on crossing into Gaza, then it can happen.”
Plans are in place to construct a much larger fence on the Gaza-Israel border, but even then, says the officer, it would not fully stop Israelis or Palestinians from crossing from one side to the other.
According to the IDF Southern Command’s plans, an additional fence will be constructed on the Israeli side of the border, which would in effect create an additional security zone in which any movement will be monitored by remote IDF surveillance. The area between the two fences would be patrolled by unmanned vehicles that search for explosive devices.
Building the new fence is expected to be a costly endeavor, and can only commence with approval from the Security Cabinet.