Friendly fire inevitable result of battle on border

Analysis: The IDF is encountering big problems during operations inside and around the Gaza Strip - many of them ending in accidents.

January 9, 2011 01:32
2 minute read.
Nadav Rotenberg

nadav rotenberg 58. (photo credit: courtesy)


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Officers in the Southern Command say that it is due to the weather, the fog or the difficult terrain. Others blame technological malfunctions. Whatever the cause, there is no hiding the fact the IDF is encountering a big problem during operations inside and around the Gaza Strip – many of them end in friendly-fire accidents.

During Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip two years ago, for example, four soldiers were killed in friendly-fire incidents.

Rocket, mortar fire escalates on Gaza border

In March, 2010, a soldier from a tank crew was shot dead by an infantry force; last month, a soldier was seriously wounded by friendly fire and on Friday, again, Sgt. Nadav Rotenberg was killed by IDF mortar fire.

Despite the two years that have passed since Operation Cast Lead, the IDF has yet to find a solution to preventing friendly fire incidents, many of which are the result of mistaken identification like that which occurred during Cast Lead. The GroundForces Command is working hard on finding a solution.

Some ideas involve thermal flags that will be carried by a force that can only be detected by special night-vision goggles, laser beams that can be fired at a suspect and provide an answer if he is a friendly or enemy combatant or the possibility of attaching a GPS-tracker to each soldier.

According to the IDF investigation into the shooting on Friday, one of the mortars deviated from its course due to a technical malfunction in the launcher’s guidance system. The system, called Keshet, has been in IDF use for about two years and has proven mostly successful in accurately hitting enemy targets.

While a technological solution is required, the more likely problem with Gaza, a senior IDF officer explained on Saturday, was that while the Israeli public might not be aware of it, there is a war fought there almost every day and in wars there are unfortunately casualties.

The fighting is not inside the Gaza Strip but is along the border where Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists daily try to target IDF troops on patrol.

IDF troops stationed along the border face daily firefights, mortar attacks and explosive devices planted along the security fence. The soldiers need to also prevent infiltrations and for them being stationed along the Gaza border is the same as being stationed in a war zone.

The two years that have passed since Operation Cast Lead have helped create a new security reality along the border. The numbers speak for themselves – in 2010, 150 rockets landed in Israel compared to 569 in 2009 and over 2,000 in 2008. On the other hand, the IDF Southern Command is facing an increase in attacks in recent weeks, understood to be the result of the time that has passed since the operation.

“The operation created deterrence but deterrence erodes and needs to be maintained,” the senior officer explained.

In the meantime, while the IDF does not predict another major round against Hamas in the near future, the army is expected to escalate its response to the almost-daily attacks in an effort to prevent more in the future. With this cycle of violence continuing though, it is difficult to tell where and how it will end.

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