‘Every counter-terrorism raid you’ve heard about includes us’

IDF commander gives rare interview to ‘Post’ about his undercover unit active throughout the West Bank; battalion will help deal with terror threats.

Soldiers from the 636 battalion on an exercise in February. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Soldiers from the 636 battalion on an exercise in February.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Hidden from view in camouflaged lookout positions, soldiers from the Nitzan Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion keep a close eye on terrorist suspects and transmit live data from a range of sensors to military commanders planning the next counter-terrorism raid.
Should peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail and result in an elevated level of violence, the battalion’s members and their ghost-like presence throughout the West Bank will direct the army to the location of terrorist suspects. That is what the battalion, under the IDF Central Command, has been doing until now, and its members say they are ready to deal with any future threats.
“We’ve been involved in every incident that made the news involving an operation in Judea and Samaria. We identify the enemy, and provide data to other forces. Our mission includes monitoring suspects trying to escape, or those who attempt to fire on the army,” said Maj. Nadav Abargil, a company commander in the battalion.
Each company is made up of eight teams, and is headed by an officer. “A team can be located anywhere. The missions we carry out include patrols, lookouts, defending communities, and gathering mission-related intelligence for [territorial] brigades or the Central Command,” said Abargil.
“We possess the newest technological means to gather intelligence, including day and night cameras, recording equipment, and the ability to broadcast live data. We ensure counter-terrorism raids on wanted suspects end in their capture,” he added.
Members of Abargil’s company carry 40 percent of their body weight on them when on foot. They creep up on targets in open territory or urban areas, such as Palestinian villages.
The soldiers are armed with a range of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers, for times they will need to fight rather than gather intelligence.
“We’re the only ones who can do this type of job – setting up covert positions that people walk past without knowing we’re there. There are six to ten team members in undercover positions.
We’ve sat in these positions for a long time without being uncovered, catering to our basic needs without moving,” Abargil said.
Often, the soldiers cannot be distinguished from surrounding trees and rocks as they point their sensors at security suspects and gather information. When a raid on suspects is ordered, the soldiers accompany the arresting forces, and ensure that the targets are where the intelligence says they should be.
“In recent years, our video evidence has also been used to incriminate rioters,” said Abargil. “Footage of rioting is sent to police, and used as evidence in court,” he added.
Asked if his battalion were similar to other combat intelligence collection battalions active on Israel’s northern and southern borders, Abargil said there is a key difference.
“Unlike border intelligence units, we go into enemy territory all the time. The enemy is always with us. We are exposed to contact all the time,” he said.