Millions spent on 'virtual fences'

Project recently inspected by US as part of plan for Mexico border.

high tech fence 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
high tech fence 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The government is considering creating an unprecedented security system for the Jewish community of Hebron, including never-before-used hi-tech laser radars, as part of a new NIS 400 million allocation for security systems at settlements, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The state-of-the-art Hebron defense system would be part of a second phase hi-tech settlement security project carried out by the IDF; NIS 300m. was spent on phase one over the past year and a half.
  • Where is all the money going? The governmental body that creates security systems for settlements in the West Bank is a branch of the IDF Home Front Command called the Shabam Administration. Shabam is an acronym for "Special Security Zone." Set up in December 2004 by then-OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, the Shabam Administration was given the mandate and the funding to create hi-tech security systems for West Bank settlements. Headed by Lt.-Col. Roni Yitah, the administration has to date created highly advanced security systems in 47 settlements, mostly isolated and far away from the Green Line. The systems used until now are based on an array of advanced radar systems, created by Motorola, and operate together with thermal cameras. The radar systems are set up around the settlements to detect Palestinians attempting to infiltrate the communities. The thermal cameras automatically home in on the intruder, whom they follow until an IDF or local security team arrives at the scene. According to Yitah, in areas where the system has been installed the IDF has reduced its presence by 50 percent due to the drop in the infiltration threat. "We create a virtual fence around the settlements, made up of radars and cameras," Yitah told the Post during an exclusive tour of the system in several West Bank settlements this week. "Everything is automatic. The radar picks up the intruder and automatically the camera homes in on the target and stays with it until the security team arrives." In May 2005, Har Bracha - a Samaria community infiltrated in the past by Palestinian terrorists - became the first settlement to receive the radar security system. Since then, dozens of additional settlements have had it installed, with some communities receiving over 30 radar stations. The Hebron Jewish community, because it is spread across several sites in the city, poses a particular security challenge, which is to be met in part by innovative use of a newly created laser-radar system. Yitah, a former Engineering Corps officer, is the mastermind behind both the overall project and the creation of the innovative Hebron system. The project was recently inspected by the United States government, which is considering using the Motorola-developed radar to secure the Mexican border. The radar-based system, he explained, is designed to warn soldiers or security guards in the settlement of the incoming Palestinians long before they are even close to the perimeter of the settlement. In most cases, the meter-by-meter radar stations were erected on Palestinian land and Yitah received the Justice Ministry's approval to build them there. "The farther away they are from the settlement the earlier warning they can provide," he said of the radar that has a range of between 400 and 700 meters. "In some cases, the radar system has provided settlements with a 10-minute warning before the Palestinian reached the settlement. All of the investigations of infiltrations showed that everything happened during the first few minutes after the terrorist entered the community. The intruder infiltrates, attacks and is usually killed within those first few 'golden minutes,'" he said. "That is why we needed a system that increased the number of minutes we had before the terrorist reached the settlement." When the project began at the beginning of 2005, 100 percent of the security systems around settlements in the West Bank were made up of fences and barbed wire. "There was nothing technological there," Yitah said. "Today 90% of the system is electronic." Every settlement, Yitah explained, receives a different security system - some include radar systems while others are protected by cameras and electronic fences. "Every system is tailored to fit the specific needs of the settlement," he said. The system has to fit the topography of the settlements and work together with the Palestinian neighbors while allowing them to continue working in fields they own sometimes right alongside Jewish communities, he said. While most settlers said they were satisfied with the systems and their effectiveness - the radar system has thwarted several infiltrations in recent months - several settlers from Yitzhar in Samaria vandalized the system after it was installed there a few months ago. In the end the IDF decided to withdraw from the project in Yitzhar after the settlers declared that they were not interested in military security assistance.