Under the cover of darkness with the IDF's combat intelligence unit

April 9, 2017 12:39
3 minute read.

A look inside the IDF's Beduin Tracking Unit (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

A look inside the IDF's Beduin Tracking Unit (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)


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Under cover of darkness, soldiers from the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Corps Unit 414 watch two armed men in an observation post in the Gaza Strip.

“Just as we can see them, they can see us. And so we try our best to camouflage.

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The more you know of your enemy, the better prepared you are to confront them,” company commander Capt. Gilad Benafshi told The Jerusalem Post.

The Combat Intelligence Corps is the youngest land force of the IDF, responsible for intelligence collection in the field and the transfer of that information to the other field units, Benafshi told the Post. His Nesher Battalion watches the Strip and documents all enemy positions.

Company Commander Gilad Benafshi on the border with the Gaza Strip (credit: Anna Ahronheim)

His soldiers have a unique role, combining their combat capabilities as infantry soldiers with their advanced intelligence-gathering skills.

Working in small teams, they collect their information in the field both on foot and in vehicles with the most advanced hi-tech intelligence gathering devices.

As the call to prayer sounds from the nearby town less than a kilometer away, Lt. Chervin tells the Post that he and the other soldiers have been watching the Strip for the past two days.

“We have been here for a specific amount of time so that we can see any significant changes, any suspicious movement,” he explains.

Chervin and his fellow soldiers, who spend days in the field gathering information on Hamas or other small terrorist groups in the enclave, are equipped with thermal vision binoculars, cameras able to take pictures of sites from all angles. The soldiers are able to collect intelligence at all hours of the day or night.

“This work is like a puzzle,” Chervin said. “You take many pictures and combine them to make one clear picture. Sometimes you can’t see the bigger picture, so we work hard to bring what the enemy is doing to light.”

But it’s not only the soldiers of the Combat Intelligence Corps who are watching the enemy on the border. The Beduin troops who patrol Israel’s borders and act as the first line of defense are highly respected for their tracking and navigational skills.

Major Tamir Sawad at his base in southern Israel (credit: Anna Ahronheim)

“Every tracker knows everything in his territory,” Maj. Tamir Sawad told the Post over tea at his base in southern Israel, a few kilometers from the Gaza border. He adds that because he knows every inch of the land, he was able to spot the two IEDs that had been placed on the border fence last month.

Despite the continuing technological advancements being introduced to the army, “there is no replacement for the tracker,” Sawad said.

“The Beduin tracker can tell you if someone who crosses the fence from Gaza into Israel is a terrorist armed with weapons, a criminal, or simply an unarmed civilian. The Beduin tracker can tell you if the person is a man or a woman. Where they crossed and when they crossed. That is something technology can’t do.

“Last night I smelled something, I felt something deep in my stomach and didn’t return to my base. I knew something was going to happen,” Sawad said, explaining that his intuition was correct as later that night there was an infiltration in a nearby kibbutz.

Sawad said there are regular infiltrations from Gaza due to the dire economic situation in the Strip, adding that many Gazans are trying to escape the Hamas-run enclave “and none wants to go back.”

According to Sawad, he has the same feeling that he felt before Operation Protective Edge three years ago. “It’s too quiet,” he said, “it’s the quiet before the storm.”

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