Citing security concerns, the Israel Defense Forces on Thursday announced the closure of Israel's Route 10 along the border with Egypt to civilian traffic. The order, which will stand for one year, was issued by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, and will shutter the road to all non-essential vehicles between Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and Sayarim Junction. The ban on civilian traffic also applies to a 300 meter zone east of the highway itself.
The IDF made the ruling on the closure, they said, after studying how the local population would be affected and weighing those concerns against questions of national security.
"Security concerns and the opposing desire to preserve the daily routine of Israeli citizens who live in the area and to avoid infringing upon their quality of life were taken into account when deciding to extend the closure of the zone," the IDF said in a statement.
Gantz's order states that signs will be installed at the main entrances to Route 10 to notify drivers and roadblocks will be placed "as needed." Entrance to the closed military area will only be permitted to those with the proper permits.
The order is unusual thanks to the additional 300-meter perimeter on the ban.
There is no area of such a size that is closed to Israeli citizens on any of Israel's other borders, with the exception of certain spots along the border with Gaza.
The decision to extend the closure of Route 10 comes after the construction of the fence along the Egyptian border between Kerem Shalom and Ein Netafim, some 230 kilometers of metal installed at a cost of more than NIS 1 billion. IDF Southern Command has determined that despite the construction of the new fence there is still a possibility of attacks originating across the border, be they from smugglers coming from the Sinai Peninsula or from terror groups. The army believes that hostile groups might still try to place improvised explosive devices in the area, or to shoot at passing vehicles or hikers in the area. None of these attacks can be completely prevented by the new fence.
IDF's 80th "Edom" Division, which operates along the Israel's Egyptian border, has been issuing warnings for some time that Hamas will try to take advantage of the tumultuous situation in the Sinai Peninsula, an area that it already describes as lawless.
After a terrorist attack at Ein Netafim in August 2011 took the lives of eight Israelis, Route 10 was closed to traffic by order the commander of IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Tal Russo. Route 12, which connects Sayarim Junction and the Netafim border crossing, was also completely closed after the attack. That highway was opened in March for use during the morning and afternoon hours.