Druze Soldiers Detained at Entrance to Dimona Nuclear Facility During Drill

Research center's security singled out three Druze soldiers for additional scrutiny while their fellow soldiers were allowed in. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon brands incident as discriminatory and outrageous.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Druze soldiers serving in the Israeli military were detained at the gate leading up to the nuclear reactor in Dimona, while their fellow soldiers were allowed to enter and participate in a military drill that took place at the facility. They were eventually allowed in.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon condemned the act of "discrimination."

The incident took place about a month ago when the Nuclear Research Center Negev held a joint training exercise with the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command. A bus unloaded a group of soldiers serving in the Israel Air Force at the reactor’s front gate. The group included three Druze – an officer and two soldiers – which singled out for special scrutiny before being let into the facility.

The incident was reported by Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday. In it one IDF commander, who apparently spoke with the security guards at the front gate, is quoted as saying “The NRCN security guard stated ‘We have to authorize your entry; at present, you are cannot enter along with the others.'”

Following the NRCN’s examination of the incident, the security team said that the soldiers were asked to exit the bus at the entrance to the reactor “like any other visitor” and that the team, which operated in accordance with protocol, verified whether the soldiers had been authorized to enter the facility. The NRCN stated that the soldiers were allowed to enter the site after a "brief" delay. The NRCN emphasized that “this is one of Israel’s most sensitive facilities, if not its most sensitive.”

Through the office of the spokesperson of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, the NRCN noted that the “Nuclear Research Center Negev is a sensitive classified workplace and entrance to the facility requires prior coordination and a prior authorization to enter the site. All those entering the NRCN undergo a security check before being issued authorization to enter and are verified through various security means employed at the front gate. That is what happened in this case. After a security check, which was found to be in order, the persons in question were authorized to enter.”

The IDF spokesman said in response: "The security in the facility is run by a private company. In the particular incident soldiers were detained in accordance with the place's guidelines. The incident was studied by the IDF in order to avoid similar incidents in the future."

Responding to the report, Minister Ya'alon stressed on Friday that the decision to detain the troops was not based in any kind of military policy.

"The incident that took place at the nuclear research center is outrageous, and goes against every policy, even if the person in question is hiding behind supposed regulations," he said.

"It's difficult to ignore the discrimination and denseness that was demonstrated at the NRCN, but no such act will undermine the alliance between the State of Israel and the Druze community," he added. "Members of the Druze community stand at the core of the IDF and the defense establishment's achievements, and their contribution to the State of Israel is impressive.

"We must root out incidents like these," Ya'alon said. "We will draw conclusions to ensure that such incidents don't recur."

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