The IDF will invest millions of shekels to secure the Israel-Egypt border, including the purchase of new vehicles for Border Police undercover commandos patrolling the border fence, to close a gap opened in recent years by drug-smuggling gangs in the Sinai Peninsula.
According to a report that appeared late last week in the Hebrew-language Walla news website, one of the reasons for the new investment is concern that Islamic State terrorists will exploit drug smuggling routes to carry out terror attacks against IDF troops along the border or even attack communities near the border fence.
Among the investments, the military will buy new, fast off-road vehicles to pursue the smugglers.
An unnamed senior official in the Israeli army said there has been a gap in the level of equipment between the military and the smugglers for some time.
“It is not new that the smugglers have better and faster vehicles than the IDF and Border Police forces operating near the border. Not to mention their night vision goggles, observation methods that include monitoring to see that there are no army forces in the area, knowing the terrain and making use of routes in unpaved areas, ambushes and road blocking.
“The decision to upgrade the IDF and the undercover units with new vehicles will make the troops’ work more efficient,” the unnamed officer said.
Another officer said that smugglers on both sides of the border are armed for fear that the Egyptian military may try to harm them, but have used their weapons against the IDF in the past.
Footage from IDF observation posts and drones shows how the smugglers carrying bags arrive at the border fence, put a ladder against the fence and wait. On the Israeli side, a truck comes to receive the shipment of controlled substances. In one of the recordings a smuggler can be seen armed with an AK-47. According to the report by Walla, over the past year at least one army jeep was stolen in the south, and intelligence officers believe the smugglers are using it to fool IDF forces active in the area.
In recent years, the Israeli government has invested billions in building a fence equipped with sensors along the entire Sinai border. The fence begins deep underground and rises three meters (nine feet) above ground level. It is wired with sensors indicating attempts to breach it all along its length.
In addition, observation posts with advanced night vision devices and high-powered binoculars were set up to observe the fence, and many routes were paved to enable emergency squads to easily reach different parts of the fence.
At the same time, Israel has been allowing the Egyptian military freedom to pursue drug smugglers. In some cases, clips shot by IDF observation units show Egyptian soldiers pursuing smugglers and firing at them all the way up to the border.
According to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Egypt must receive Israel’s consent to dispatch troops to the Sinai Peninsula. The two countries have been cooperating in their fight against drug smugglers and Islamist terrorists based in the territory.