Front Image : Installing border barrier with Lebanon, near Kibbutz Manara, 2012. Photo: Dave Bender.
Growing tension along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon in the last few months have prompted an uptick in requests for weapons licenses, Israel’s Walla News reported Wednesday.
“I hear more and more residents who want their weapons at home, because they fear the infiltration of terrorists and are afraid they will not know how to handle it,” according to Yossi Adoni, deputy head of the Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council and community leader at Moshav Zarit, which lies along the western sector of the border with Lebanon.
The community armory at Kibbutz Aloni Habashan in the Golan Heights, not far from Quneitra in Syria, which is engulfed in fighting between government forces, and ISIS and rebel fighters, nearly emptied out over the last two months, according to the report; 80 percent of the weapons that were mothballed have been consigned to members of the auxiliary volunteer security squad.
Additionally, Upper Galilee Regional Council authorities instructed leaders of similar teams on all of the area border kibbutzim to distribute all of the armory weapons – usually semi-automatic rifles, ammo, and related gear – to their crews. Zarit and Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council villages saw a 60 percent rise in the number of weapons dispersed among the qualified security teams.
The increase can be attributed to fears of possible terrorist attack tunnels from Lebanon, like in Gaza, and statements by a senior IDF officer that Hezbollah might carry out a threat to invade settlements in any future conflict.
A group of residents at Zarit hired a private excavations contractor to help them find what they fear may be such tunnels being dug by Hezbollah right beneath their feet, Channel 10 News said Tuesday.
As well, on September 23rd, Israel shot down a bomb-laden Syrian warplane that entered its airspace, apparently, en-route to bombing rebel posts close to the border.
Other reports aver that US light arms may be reaching the Lebanon-based Shiite group, to be used in its fight with ISIS over the border with Syria.
Another contributing factor adding to the Israeli civilians’ concerns are government cuts to funding for internal security components in many communities.
“This is a direct result of the Defense Ministry’s decision to cancel funding security for the communities, including walkie-talkies, and related defensive surveillance tools,” according to Adoni.
The Defense Ministry’s budget cuts included canceling soldiers sent to guard the entrance to towns, cutting hours for localities’ security lighting and cutting funding for maintenance costs of village security fences.
“The public’s in a panic, their sense of security has taken a hit, and residents are wondering, ‘If I don’t look after myself – who will?’” Adoni noted.
Additionally, civilian security coordinators roles are being replaced by military security coordinators, who will be subject to the army on the one hand, and on the other hand would be paid for from the community or regional council pockets – which could seriously harm their employment conditions.
Yishai Efroni, a security officer with the Asher Regional Council in the Western Galilee said the biggest issue is that the positions haven’t even been approved.
“The change should come into effect in three months. Not only has the army cut positions from 16 to 13, I currently have only two approved spots, and ended up with just one security officer in only one locality, out of four,” Efroni said.
He added that an IDF official cautioned him that “it could end up that, by January, there won’t be enough security chiefs for all of the areas.”
More and more civilians in rural areas that rarely even bothered locking their doors are showing gnawing concern.
“The rebels and Islamist terrorist organizations are busy now with Assad’s army, but once they’re finished with him they will turn to us,” said Jessica Dekel, spokeswoman for Aloni Bashan.
“We can’t deny the situation any longer,” Dekel said. “Recently there has been an escalation of tension; we have new neighbors and we need to prepare ourselves.”
While noting the changes, however, she pointed out that, “overall, the residents live a routine life, and they’re not frozen in fear.” Dekel said that changes in the residents’ daily behavior are indicative of the complex reality.
“We started, in the last six months to lock the doors when we went to bed – it’s something we have changed in our lifestyle. Rifles that once remained in the armory, are now in residents’ homes.”
Watch a video report of the IDF’s elite “alpine” unit responsible for patrolling Mt. Hermon, which overlooks Israel, Syria and Lebanon:
The Algemeiner – OCTOBER 1, 2014 – Dave Bender