Israeli soldiers serving in an elite paratroopers reconnaissance unit along the Egyptian border are contending with one hot meal a day, no running water, grimy chemical toilets and temperatures that reach 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade. The unit is stationed in one of the most active areas along the border.
According to people with knowledge about the situation, the elite troops — who participate in ambushes and patrols around the clock in the July and August heat, to prevent terrorists from entering the country — return to their temporary base after operational activity without being treated to a proper shower. And since there is no kitchen in which they can prepare hot meals for themselves, meals are delivered to the base once per day. Some soldiers told their friends that due to the lack of food on the base, they have had to settle in the evening for leftovers from their lunch meal.
Because the soldiers are serving in an elite unit, they and their families have declined to be interviewed publicly concerning their appalling conditions. A mother of one soldier serving in the unit, however, admitted that the situation on the base is "very difficult."
"Now I understand why every Sunday my son takes some canned foods with him from home to his base," she said. Another person said "The conditions there are shocking. They are in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of the desert, far from Eilat, and simply being starved without minimal conditions."
The unit has been stationed along the border for the past several weeks and on numerous occasions both soldiers and officers, including unit commander Lt. Col. Nimrod Lotan, have submitted complaints and requests to the Southern Command for better living conditions. Southern Command officers have consistently responded that the unit will be moved to a more permanent station "within days" and that the new base is currently under construction. Days have turned into weeks however and nothing has changed for the unit.
This week, the area covered by the unit became the focal point of a terrorist attack during which the paratroopers helped kill several armed men who crossed the border into Israel in an armored vehicle. Soldiers from the unit who participated in the counterattack belonged to a group stationed further north than the others and enjoy slightly better living conditions.
Commenting on the situation, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said "After a terrorist attack in the south in August last year, the IDF realized it needed to have a temporary military outpost there to provide an optimal response to operational activity in the area. A permanent base was also constructed at that time and will replace the current outpost shortly. It should be emphasized that the temporary outpost provides all the basic needs of the soldiers."