RAMALLAH: Israel has established a new special military brigade to protect its barrier in the West Bank and reconstruct several kilometers of wall in southern Jenin, with a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinian infiltrators, senior Israeli military sources revealed this week.
The Wall Brigade started functioning two weeks ago and consists of six battalions numbering 2,100 personnel.
The budget for the new 60-kilometer-long, seven-meter-high cement wall, which will start from the south of Jenin and run along the border with the West Bank, is $100 million.
The brigade command is located in the Maccabim area near the village of Ni’lin, close to Israel’s borders west of Ramallah.
“The idea of establishing the new wall brigade came in the wake of the wave of escalation in attacks against Israel from the West Bank in March and April,” a senior Israeli defense source said.
He added that the new brigade is responsible for securing and protecting the existing wall area, supervising the process of building the new Jenin wall and restoring destroyed sections from which Palestinians can enter Israel illegally.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, told Arab News: “These instructions are intended to kill and abuse Palestinians. Since the beginning of this year, more than 70 Palestinians, including 16 children and several workers, have been killed, and all the victims are civilians who were not armed and did not pose a threat to the lives of Israelis.
“The wall is not an international border, but rather military a barrier set up by the Israeli army between the West Bank and Israel on Palestinian land, and the claim that it constitutes an international border for Israel is just a manipulation of words.”
With the launch of the Wall Brigade, the Israeli Army has changed firing rules against Palestinian infiltrators, considering the wall as an official international border.
Barghouti said: “The shooting instructions have been changed, and the Israeli soldiers are allowed to shoot anyone trying to cross the wall into Israel.”
The Israeli civil administration, known as “the coordinator,” publishes warnings through its social media sites telling the 180,000 legal and 24,000 illegal Palestinian workers in Israel to enter the country through official border crossings, threatening those who enter illegally with permit suspension.
A senior Palestinian security official in Ramallah told Arab News: “The killing of any suspected Palestinian trying to approach the wall is a continuation of disregard for their lives. It does not differ from the orders issued to the occupation soldiers to kill the Palestinians as soon as the soldier feels his life is in danger.
“According to the international border protection standards, if the infiltrator is unarmed then it’s permissible to shoot in the air, then at his feet, but not to shoot to kill. Still, the Israelis apply their arrogant laws that do not value the lives of the Palestinians.”
The Israeli army killed a 53-year-old Palestinian worker, Nabil Ghanim, from Nablus, south of Qalqilya, when he tried to cross the separation wall from the West Bank into Israel on June 19.
Soldiers in the new brigade have been provided with modern night vision equipment, GPS devices, fast armored vehicles and drones to track infiltrators inside Israel, and carry out round-the-clock patrols over sections of the wall.
Before the establishment of the Wall Brigade, Israel relied on replaceable forces from the border guards, the regular army and the reservists.
The Israeli Army and security services claim that in attacks that took place in Israel between March and May, armed perpetrators illegally entered the country.