Thirty-five water installations were destroyed overnight Motzoei Shabbos at a northern kibbutz, in what residents termed an act of “agricultural terror.” The installations, which were set afire at Kibbutz Mizra in the Yezre’el Valley in the lower Galilee, were set to be deployed in the coming weeks. The kibbutz estimated the damage at NIS 400,000.
Nir Meir, head of the United Kibbutz Movement, slammed the government Sunday for failing to get control of the problem. “It’s a new week but we are experiencing the same old terror, and no one is doing anything to defend Israeli farmers. Once again we are victims of agricultural terrorism, which costs us millions of shekels directly and indirectly. Every week there is a new incident. Farmers are not getting the protection they need.”
The Border Patrol last month established a separate department to deal solely with the issue of agricultural terror – attacks and thefts by Arabs on Israeli farms and herds. In a statement, the Border Patrol said that the new unit, called Mercaz Habina, will be equipped with “advanced technological and intelligence capabilities in order to fight this problem.”
Until now, various Border Patrol units were dispatched on an as-needed basis to deal with the ongoing thefts by Arabs of equipment and produce from Israeli farmers. The units would use the various technologies used by Border Patrol officers in their day-to-day work of dealing with riots, smuggling, and other crimes and security issues. According to the Border Patrol, the technologies and techniques used by the new unit are specifically designed to deal with the problem of agricultural terror. The new unit currently includes dozens of officers, and will be expanded.
Agricultural terror got new attention from security forces in the wake of an incident in August 2016, in which a truck driver from the moshav of Beit Elazari shot in the air at three individuals who attempted to steal his vehicle. The driver said that he did not hit anyone, but after the incident rescue officials found a dead body in a field near where the shootings took place. Police have opened an investigation, and believe that the dead man, about 30, was one of the thieves. The case received a great deal of media attention, with pundits and politicians debating the limits of self-defense and the appropriate response to an attempted theft.
According to Meir, “we have heard more than enough times about new government efforts or plans, and about how the authorities caught this or that thief. I demand that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Chief Roni Alshich, who have declared a major war on this phenomenon, allocate the required resources and do their jobs, and provide protection for the farmers who are working and protecting the country’s land.”