At Israel-Gaza border, the IDF works round the clock to maintain quiet

‘We have incidents almost every day; our basic mission is to allow life to stay normal’

Lt.-Col. Amram Hayun watching over the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
Lt.-Col. Amram Hayun watching over the Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
Many views of the Israel-Gaza border are spectacular. The skies are blue, while and the fields where tractors plow slowly are green at this time of year. Only a faint humming sound in the distance disrupts the abundant birdsong.
“Do you recognize that humming sound?” Lt.-Col. Amram Hayun, deputy OC of the Gaza Southern Region Brigade, asked The Jerusalem Post in an interview near the Gaza border. “It is an observation device hovering over the border and keeping it safe. This pastoral setting may be deceiving because although we maintain calm, we are acting around the clock on multiple levels – underground, above the ground, and in the air.”
Indeed, the interoperability of different forces and their ability to work together is a cornerstone of the defense doctrine of the Gaza Southern Region Brigade, which oversees the daily protection of the southern part of Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
The most basic activity is the joint work involving scattered infantry and tank forces along the border that can both monitor and respond swiftly to threats.
“These joint forces are constantly on the move,” said Hayun. “As part of our constant evolving of the barrier [between Gaza and Israel], we constructed ramps that can keep the tanks safe while allowing them to strike at targets deep inside the Strip. The ability of these joint forces to be relevant in the fence area is amazing. They can reach their designated zone in no time.”
Another element of interoperability along the border are the highly advanced observation and monitoring systems that closely follow any suspicious movements near the border.
A major component of these systems is MARS, which contains advanced sensors, radar and secret intelligence abilities that can analyze situations and warn operators if it detects a situation that requires attention.
According to sources, the system has learning capabilities and can prioritize threats numerically according to situations it has previously encountered. For instance, if it detects a suspicious movement near a border community, it knows to place it higher on its list of potential threats. This ability affords field commanders greater insight into threats in their sector and can cut their response time.
“The volume of information that our system can absorb at any given moment is beyond what we can fathom,” Hayun said. “Our control of the area here is magnified to the resolution of a single cell. These systems, which are formed from a tremendous number of sensors, have the ability to spot movements in the area and make calculations.”
It was reported last month that the IDF had finished constructing the underground concrete wall that makes up the new border barrier, to prevent cross-border attack tunnels. The underground section includes advanced sensors that can detect subterranean activity.
Apart from the barrier below ground, the IDF has in recent years erected an array of fences and walls above the ground. The most complex is the “Hourglass Fence,” a six-meter-high barbed wire fence.
“If someone wants to cross this barrier, he has no chance,” Hayun said. “It’s just impossible. Our systems give us control over those who try to infiltrate when they are still on the other side.”
Hayun stressed that there are constant events that demand his forces’ attention.
“Events occur on a daily basis,” he said. “Whether it’s infiltration attempts, IEDs near the border, rockets launching, and others… Our mission here is to make sure that [civilians] can continue their daily lives.”
Pointing at the tractors working in the next field, Hayun said the army’s aim is “to make sure that they can work in their fields, which stretch right up to border, not even one meter short of that. This is our way of preserving sovereignty.”
Hayun said that maintaining a contact with the local communities near the border is highly important for him – both on a professional and a personal level.
“The local security officer of this regional council is a source of knowledge for me,” he said. “When I came here, he and the brigade commander and the trackers’ officer were my primary source of understanding of the area.
“But it’s not only professional. The communities here are the source of my energy – I basically work for them, and I am defending them. It is important for me to be close to them, know them personally and maintain a relationship based on trust.”