On the Gaza border: Spotting the enemy from afar

Combat Intelligence company commander on Gaza border describes his world.

IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion patrol 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion patrol 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
This week, soldiers from the IDF’s 414th Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion spotted two Palestinian suspects approaching the security fence, who then made a hole through the barrier.
Raising the alarm, the lookouts – who have remote-control access to advanced surveillance equipment along the Gaza border – quickly directed infantry and tank units toward the intruders.
One of the suspects was shot dead and the other escaped back into Gaza.
“Our battalion spotted the suspects and made the first identification,” Capt. Alexander, a company commander in the same battalion, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“The lookouts have the ability to discern the locations and movement of suspects in Gaza that other forces do not,” he said.
Unlike the lookouts, Alexander’s company operates on the ground. His soldiers are often out on covert border intelligence gathering missions, heavily camouflaged and keeping an eye out for terrorist movements.
The information they gather, visual intelligence, has proven to be a major advantage to the infantry and armored units patrolling the Gaza border.
“The eyes don’t lie. If one of my crews tracks an intelligence target, he can transmit the location to other forces. We can know when a suspect enters a home, or what vehicle he is traveling in. This is a significant part of the intelligence picture. We can look out for tunnels and the movements of terrorists and see what’s happening in far more than ordinary patrols,” he said.
The information is instantly broadcast to the relevant response units, be they infantry, tanks, battle helicopters, or artillery.
“We talk to everyone,” Alexander said.
The 414th Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion, also known as the Nesher (Eagle) Battalion, is responsible for all surveillance activities in the IDF’s Gaza division and is permanently stationed on the southern border. It has been in service for a decade.
“Our soldiers know the territory well and are highly familiar with the enemy, because of the relatively long period of time that the battalion has been here,” Alexander explained.
Anyone driving near the Gaza border can see the surveillance balloons deployed by Alexander’s company.
“If you don’t want to meet terrorists at the fence, you need an indication ahead of time. We provide the alerts. We’re on the ground, and we can look deep inside the Strip,” he said.
“Our big advantage is our ability to work covertly. We can be on the ground for a long time, and if we receive intelligence, we’ll sound the alert very quickly,” he continued.
Some of Alexander’s soldiers move on foot and spend three to four days in secret border locations, while others travel in vehicles from one sector to the next.
Some soldiers are highly trained riflemen and infantrymen with expertise in combat, while others focus on using advanced surveillance equipment that works in all conditions, day or night.
“Our surveillance equipment is the best of its kind in the Ground Forces,” the commander said with pride. “It gathers information from very long ranges.”
Alexander said that since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense last year, the border region has largely grown quiet. But, he added, “threats always exist. There could be a lone terrorist, or an extremist group not committed to the cease-fire.”
Hamas seems to prefer to take advantage of the current lull in violence to grow stronger, he said.