Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups, rain or shine

"It’s a very fragile time-between an escalation and quiet"

Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups, rain or shine (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups, rain or shine
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The rain that had poured down throughout the day seemed to taper off as the Dvora-class patrol boat pulled out of Ashdod port. Even a dolphin came to send us off. Everyone was at the ready, at their combat positions. Ready for anything.
But, even before we cleared the port, someone had fallen overboard. The soldiers aboard the Dvora patrol boat, which The Jerusalem Post had joined, rushed down to the bridge and began moving a rubber zodiac lifeboat towards the sea to rescue the unconscious man.
While it was only a drill, it took them less than five minutes before they made their way back to the ship – and a few moments later, we headed out to sea to continue the drill, which would last for several hours.
Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups (Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups (Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Once we were some 16 km. from land, the wind and rain returned with a vengeance, throwing large waves onto the ship.
As the dark clouds rolled in, we heard on the radio that there was a suspicious ship, one thought to belong to Hamas.
As the vessel was not responding to orders, the commander of the Dvora became concerned that it could be smuggling weapons into the blockaded Gaza Strip, or planning an attack against Israeli or foreign interests.
Shortly after verifying that the suspicious ship had no links to Hamas and no intention to carry out a terror attack, troops were ordered to sail towards another Dvora nearby. They were having a technical failure near Gaza and our vessel needed to rescue them.
Israel is highly dependent on the sea, with over 90% of Israel’s imports arriving via the Mediterranean. While the country’s navy is relatively small compared to other IDF corps, it protects a significant amount of territory.
Divided into three areas, Haifa in the North and Ashdod and Eilat in the South, the Navy must use all its capabilities to gather intelligence and keep the waters safe from any threat – including working with Air and Ground Forces – and do so in any weather condition.
“I want to make sure that our troops feel confident while at sea,” said the ship’s commander, 1st-Lt. Nimrod Kimchi.
“As soldiers in the Navy – in addition to the normal challenges of not being at home for extended periods of time – there are challenges at sea like inclement weather, and drills like these allow troops to overcome those challenges. After a few times at sea with weather like this, they feel fine and see that they can overcome anything,” he added.
While it was only a drill, with continued violence between Israel and terror groups in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Israel’s Navy remains on guard.
“It’s a very fragile time – between an escalation and quiet” the commander of the Kassif patrol squadron Maj. Tamir Kalderon told the Post. “We always need to keep the country secure without compromising the situation.”
“Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas want to harm us, by any way and on any front – sea, land, air and underground. We always need to prepare for an attack, no matter what,” Kalderon said.
“The sea is challenging, and sometimes the challenges aren’t by the enemy, but by nature – when most people are at home – [and] the troops need to be on guard. Even in bad weather our enemies can carry out attacks,” Kalderon warned, adding that the navy understands that when the weather is bad, it need to increase their preparedness.
The past year has seen the most serious escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza terrorist groups since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Seven Israelis have been killed during the violence and hundreds more injured. Thousands continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress.
Dozens of rounds of violence has seen over 1,500 rockets and mortars fired toward Israel. Although Hamas has temporarily halted the Great Return March protests, over the past year and a half of weekly riots, thousands of Palestinians gathered along the border fence to riot and protest, and have also taken part in naval flotillas from Gaza that tried to infiltrate into Israeli waters.
According to Kalderon, while it might take over an hour to swim into Israeli territory from the blockaded coastal enclave, it can take less than 15 minutes by boat.
“You can see from the 2014 incident in Zikim that an event can go from zero to 100 in no time,” he said referring to an attack by five Hamas naval commandos who swam ashore near Kibbutz Zikim during Operation Protective Edge before they were engaged and killed by the IDF.
Since the conflict, both Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas have significantly expanded their naval commando units, and Israel for its part has completed a 200-meter sea barrier there in order to provide an additional security measure to guard against attacks.
Last year, a senior naval officer warned that Hamas was increasingly turning to the sea to carry out attacks against IDF`troops and Israeli civilians, saying that Hamas sees potential in the sea like they saw potential in their tunnels.
And while the barrier “is strong and helps to protect the country, we need more... there are many more things we can do,” Kalderon said. Because, “in no time, an attack can lead to another deadly escalation.” 
Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups (Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)Israel's Navy on guard against Gazan terror groups (Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Since the conflict, both Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas have significantly expanded their naval commando units, and Israel for its part has completed a 200-meter sea barrier there in order to provide an additional security measure to guard against attacks.
Last year, a senior naval officer warned that Hamas was increasingly turning to the sea to carry out attacks against IDF troops and Israeli civilians, saying that Hamas sees potential in the sea like they saw potential in their tunnels.
And while the barrier “is strong and helps to protect the country, we need more... there are many more things we can do,” Kalderon said. Because, “in no time, an attack can lead to another deadly escalation.”