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Israeli Defense Ministry to officials: stay off Egyptian border roads

(Xinhua)

10:05, August 31, 2011

JERUSALEM, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- In the wake of a recent militant attack along the border with Egypt, Israel's Defense Ministry has marked certain routes in the region off-limits to some of its employees, fearing their possible abduction and exposure of classified information, local media reported Monday.

The directive, issued by the Director of Security for the Defense Establishment (DSDE), a body tasked mainly with guarding state secrets, applies to the ministry's military personnel and civilian employees with high-security clearance who are exposed to sensitive information on a regular basis.

They are strictly prohibited from using Routes 10 and 12 which run adjacent to the southern border and connect the Red Sea resort city of Eilat to central Israel, the daily Ma'ariv reported.

Both routes have been declared closed military zones since the attacks, although civilian vehicles are allowed along certain parts of Route 12. Defense establishment employees will be barred from using both roads even after they fully reopen to traffic.

On Aug. 19, between 15 and 20 heavily-armed militants carried out a series of parallel attacks on Route 12, killing eight Israelis, among them a soldier and a member of a police counter- terror unit, and wounding scores of others.

An army investigation concluded that the perpetrators, members of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, likely planned to abduct soldiers or civilians. Defense officials said the prepositioning and quick reaction of security forces in the area had thwarted the plan.

Defense Ministry spokesmen declined to comment on the new directive, which reportedly also applies to advisers and private contractors, and which is to continue indefinitely.

In a related development, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz Monday ordered a major reinforcement of military forces deployed along Israel's border with both Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Gantz took the decision after intelligence information received overnight Sunday pointed to a plan by Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out a large-scale attack.

Israeli officials said the force build-up and alert were communicated to their Egyptian counterparts.

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