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Corps of Engineers begin paratroopers Northern Negev Base

Arieh O'Sullivan. . . .27/5/2003

(May 14 2003) - The US Army Corps of Engineers is to lay the cornerstone today of a new, mostly US-financed training base for IDF paratroopers in the northern Negev.

The $53 million base is part of a plan to relocate IDF training bases from the West Bank, in the framework of the Wye River Plantation accords under which the US would fund infrastructure costs so the IDF could free up lands for possible transfer to the Palestinians.

The Paratrooper Brigade had for decades trained at Sanur in Samaria and Hamam el-Maliah in the Jordan Valley. Its new training base will be situated near Kibbutz Shomriya, north of Beersheba. The US is providing $45 million toward the cost of the base.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is the main contractor for what defense officials said will be an ultra-modern training base. Local companies will be subcontracted to perform the bulk of the work.

Defense officials said the new base's location was part of the greater infrastructure plan for IDF firing zones, and that the hills just inside the Green Line on the southern bowl of the Judean hills was particularly suitable for paratrooper infantry training.

The base will have over 40,000 square meters of structures, among them barracks, offices, mess halls, galleys, lecture halls, and spacious sports facilities. Firing ranges and protective ramparts are also slated for construction, as is a logistics base.

"All the buildings and infrastructure will meet the highest standard and with emphasis on the environment," a Defense Ministry statement said.

Since the outbreak of the current violence and attacks by the Palestinians, parents of paratrooper recruits have complained that the present basic training grounds in Samaria were too dangerous - not only for their sons, but for them to come visit.

The new base will solve this concern.

By Arieh O'Sullivan
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