Posts Tagged ‘Israel Defense Forces’

Palestinians Renew Protest on Gaza Border, Three Reported Wounded From Israeli Fire

April 6, 2018


Palestinians report Israeli forces have opened fire on protesters setting tires on fire east of Jabaliya ■ Israeli Arab and Gazan NGOs petition Israel’s Attorney General to stop use of live ammunition

.Palestinian protesters cover during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Thursday, April 5, 2018
Palestinian protesters cover during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Thursday, April 5, 2018Adel Hana/AP

Confrontations between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinians resumed Friday along the border fence in the Gaza Strip, as protesters set tires on fire. Palestinian media reports that three were wounded from IDF fire east of Jabaliya.

According to IDF spokesperson, violent protests involving hundreds of Palestinians have been taking place since the morning in five “hotspots” along the border fence. IDF troops are using riot desperal methods and live fire in accordance with protocol.

In light of assessments, the IDF declared the area around the fence a closed military zone.

Local councils report that despite a substantial presence of IDF, Police and Fire Brigade forces along the border, no special directions were given to residents as of yet.

Thousands of Palestinians are making their were towards friction points along the fence. Hamas is mandating all of its platoon officers to join the protests along with their family members. The IDF currently assesses there will be less demonstrators this Friday compared to last week, but not by a large margin.

.Soldiers stand in front of the Gaza border fence, facing a wall of black smoke raising from the burning tires, April 6, 2018

Soldiers stand in front of the Gaza border fence, facing a wall of black smoke raising from the burning tires, April 6, 2018.  Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Palestinians have begun torching tires near friction points along the border in hopes that the thick black smoke would impair IDF snipers’ vision. As of now, these are done away from the fence.

In preperation for the rallies, tractors expanded the encampment near Khan Yunis in the southern strip, and have mounded sand heaps along the fence to protect demonstrators from IDF fire.

The Adalah Legal Center and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, based in Gaza, petitioned Israel’s Attorney General and the IDF’s Military Advocate General and requested they explicitly order Israeli forces to refrain from using any kind of live fire, including snipers.

“Live fire against protesters in Gaza is against international law and Israeli law,” read the statement. “We state and emphasize again that this infringement amplifies itself in the face of clear criminal dimensions in light of the fact that it is premeditated, on the basis of intention to use live ammunition illegally.”

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported Friday on the death of Tair Mohammed Raba’a, a 30-year-old protester who was wounded near the border fence last week. Raba’a raises the Palestinian death toll to 22 since the March of Return began on March 30.

The Israeli military expects some 50,000 Palestinians to participate in Friday’s planned protests near the border fence with the Gaza Strip in five separate locations, an increase over the 35,000 who came out to protest last Friday. At a meeting on Thursday senior army officials also discussed the possibility that Hamas would exploit the chaos surrounding the protests in order to commit an attack inside Israeli territory.

On Thursday, Israel reinforced the military presence near the border fence. The rules of engagement during the protests are to remain unchanged, meaning that snipers will be permitted to shoot at anyone on the Gaza side of the fence who approaches close to it with the intention of crossing into Israel. Human rights organizations in the country and international groups have criticized this protocol, which they say led to the unjustified killing of unarmed Palestinians.


Despite 15 Killed on Gaza Border, Israeli Military Says Won’t Change Firing Policy

April 2, 2018


Army sources did say, however, that the military will investigate claims that those killed included Gazan civilians who didn’t pose a threat

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops during a protest on the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, April 1, 2018.
A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops during a protest on the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, April 1, 2018.\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

The Israel Defense Forces has no intention of changing its open-fire policy in confrontations with Gazans approaching the border fence, or to reexamine the effectiveness of soldiers opening fire at demonstrators near the border. The policy will remain in place despite the killing of 15 Palestinians involved in riots there on Friday, army sources said on Sunday.

However, the army will investigate claims that those killed included Gazan civilians who had not posed a threat, but at this point it stands by its position that 10 of those killed were terrorists, the sources said.

“We will continue to act against the demonstrators in Gaza as we acted last Friday,” an army source said. This means the army will not shift to greater use of other crowd dispersal means. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 15 Palestinians were killed, 805 were wounded by live fire and 154 injured by rubber-tipped bullets in Friday’s clashes.

On Sunday, a Palestinian man in Khan Yunis was shot in the head by a soldier and critically wounded, and five other Palestinians were also wounded by IDF live fire, said the Palestinian Health Ministry. The army said soldiers fired at the feet of Palestinians in six incidents.

>> Israel beat Hamas. Now it may lose its victory | Analysis ■ Debunking Israel’s talking points on deadly Gaza protests | Opinion >>

In general, the Gazan border with Israel was quiet on Saturday and Sunday compared to Friday, with about 400 Palestinians demonstrating at four spots near the border on Sunday, Israeli military sources said.

Some organizers of the march in Gaza predicted that the clashes would subside, in part due to the Easter holiday on Sunday, but there were also calls for protest marches in the West Bank and confrontations with Israeli forces at checkpoints and other points of friction. At Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, a Palestinian was hit by live fire and five others were hurt by rubber-tipped bullets. Dozens of others suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Around 30,000 Gazans participated in Friday’s protest march near the border, which saw a number of protesters throw stones and firebombs in the direction of Israeli soldiers. However, no injuries to soldiers were reported.

The Israeli army views it as its primary mission to prevent the demonstrators from crossing over the fence into Israel. In preparing for Friday’s mass demonstration, the army anticipated the possibility that many Palestinians would be killed in the confrontation. Prior to the protests, a senior army source told Haaretz: “That is the price that we are prepared to pay to prevent a breach [of the border].”

Relatives of an 18-year old Palestinian, Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi, who was seen in a video to have been shot in the back while running during Friday’s protest march, told the Washington Post that Abdul Nabi did not belong to an armed faction in the Gaza Strip. In a list released by the Israeli army, however, he was listed as a member of the military wing of Hamas. Army sources said the IDF has intelligence information that backs up its claim.

Abdul Nabi’s relatives told the Washington Post that he worked in his brother’s falafel shop during the week and in a kitchen on Fridays. The mourners’ tent that was set up following his death was not decorated with signs that would indicate the family’s affiliation with a particular faction in Gaza, the Post reported. Unlike others who were killed, Abdul Nabi was also not pictured in uniform.

The Trump administration, which expressed support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, came in for criticism from Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, who said the United States was scuttling any forceful international condemnation of Israel’s conduct on the Gazan border.

The United States blocked a draft statement in the UN Security Council on Saturday that called for an investigation into the clashes, diplomats told Agence France Presse. The statement, proposed by Kuwait, representative of Arab countries on the council, demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” into Friday’s violence with regard to international law.

Gaza Carnage Is a Victory for Hamas – and a Propaganda Nightmare for Israel — Hamas Outsmarts Israel this time…

March 31, 2018


Trump’s unqualified support bolsters Netanyahu but could also spark international backlash from critics of both

Medical staff help an injured Palestinian man during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel,March 31, 2018.
Medical staff help an injured Palestinian man during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel,March 31, 2018.SAID KHATIB/AFP

For the first time in a long while, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took a central place over the weekend in international media news reports. Israeli spokespersons did supply evidence of Hamas militants trying to breach the border fence in Gaza under the guise of a supposedly popular protest, but Western opinion makers preferred the viral video of a Palestinian teen getting shot in the back and an overarching narrative of despondent Gazans protesting their oppression and blockade. Fifteen Palestinians were killed, hundreds were injured and the fence remained intact, but in the battlefield of propaganda, Hamas scored a victory.

Future developments are also in the hands of the Islamic organization. The more Hamas persists with the “March of the Million,” as it has been dubbed, and the more it succeeds in separating the protests from acts of violence and terror, the more it will succeed in defying and embarrassing Israel as well as Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. If commanders of the Israel Defense Forces don’t find a way to repel efforts to breach the fence without causing so many casualties, Israel’s predicament will grow exponentially. Friday’s day of bloodshed may be quickly forgotten if it remains a solitary event, but if the bloodshed recurs over and over during the six-week campaign that is slated to culminate on the Palestinian Nakba Day in mid-May, the international community will be forced to refocus its attentions on the conflict. Criticism of, and pressure on, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has virtually evaporated in recent months, could return with a vengeance.

The working assumption on the Israeli side is that terror and violence are an inherent part of Hamas’ self-identity; the Islamist group is supposedly incapable of suspending its “armed struggle,” even temporarily. If this is the case, Israel’s distress will soon pass and Hamas will squander the advantages it gained in the mass skirmishes near the fence. If the Israeli conception turns out to be wrong, however, and Hamas proves itself capable of tactical discipline and restraint, it could manufacture what has always been Israel’s hasbara nightmare: Mass, nonviolent Palestinian protests that compel the IDF to kill and maim unarmed civilians. Analogies to Mahatma Gandhi, apartheid South Africa and even the struggle for civil rights in America, superficial and preposterous as they may be, will frame the next stage of the Palestinian struggle.

>> Forget rockets and tunnels – Hamas found a more effective way to agitate Israel | Analysis ■ Gaza’s refugees have always haunted Israel. Now they’re on the march | Opinion >>

The immediate support of the Trump administration, expressed in a Passover-eve tweet by special envoy Jason Greenblatt, who lambasted Hamas incitement and its “hostile march,” is ostensibly a positive development from Israel’s point of view. Contrary to Trump, Barack Obama would have been quick to criticize what is being widely described as Israel’s excessive use of force, and might have conferred with Western European countries on a proper diplomatic response. Israel welcomes and Netanyahu often extols its unparalleled coordination with the Trump administration, but it could also turn out to be a double-edged sword, which will only make things worse.

.Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at a protest along the Israeli border with Gaza, March 30, 2018.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at a protest along the Israeli border with Gaza, March 30, 2018.\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

Trump, after all, is one of the most despised U.S. presidents in modern history, in Western public opinion in general and among American liberals in particular. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy there are widely perceived as contributing to Palestinians frustration and sense of isolation. As long as Israel maintains a low profile and doesn’t star in negative news headlines, its intimate relations with Trump cause only marginal damage; in times of crisis, however, the damage can be substantial. The criticism that would have been leveled at Israel in the wake of “Bloody Friday” in any case is fueled by widespread resentment of Trump and his policies – and by a wish to punish his favorites. The more the U.S. administration defends Israel’s unpopular actions, the more its critics, including American liberals, will treat Trump and Netanyahu as one unsavory package.

The unqualified U.S. support strengthens the resolve of Netanyahu and his ministers to stick with their do-nothing polices toward both Gaza and the peace process. Most Israelis view Hamas purely as a terror organization, and their gut reaction is that Israel can’t and shouldn’t be perceived as caving in to terror and violence. At a time when early elections seem just beyond the horizon, the last thing Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition wants to do is deviate from its established policies, which would be tantamount to admitting the error of its ways. Calls from the left to review the IDF’s conduct in Gaza and reassess Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians overall could bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back to the center of public discourse after an extended absence, but will also provide the prime minister with an excuse – as if he needs one – to divert attention away from the crisis in Gaza to backstabbing internal enemies from within.

The Book of Hosea, however, taught us “He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” Israel’s ongoing diplomatic paralysis on the Palestinian issue and its misguided belief that the status quo can be maintained indefinitely provided the opening for Hamas’ propaganda coup: The Islamist group can suddenly see light at the end of the tunnels that the IDF is systematically destroying. Hamas may shed crocodile tears over the dead and injured, but even if their numbers are doubled and tripled over the next few days, it is a small price to pay for resuscitating its prominence and for pushing both Netanyahu and Abbas into a corner. The fact that Jerusalem maneuvered itself into a position in which a proven terrorist group that still dreams of destroying “the Zionist entity” can outmaneuver Israel in the court of public opinion and cast it as malevolent occupier with an itchy trigger finger is a monumental failure, one that can only get worse as long as Netanyahu and his government prefer to entrench themselves in their obtuse self-righteousness.

‘Shoot Anyone Breaching the Fence’: Israeli Army Gears Up for Gaza Mass Protest

March 29, 2018


Israeli army calling up snipers and extra soldiers to help local troops deal with Friday’s demonstration ■ Defense officials certain army can prevent Palestinian from crossing Gaza border

A Palestinian demonstrator hurls stones by the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip
A Palestinian demonstrator hurls stones by the border fence between Israel and the Gaza StripSAID KHATIB/AFP

The defense establishment believes that the army will succeed in preventing Gazans from crossing the border into Israel during the March of Return scheduled for Friday, even if that means Palestinian deaths.

Defense officials said Gaza residents do not seem eager to take part in the event, but Hamas is making efforts to bring as many of them as possible to the fence on Friday. As a result, the troops may have to deal with a particularly large demonstration.

<<This Friday, Israel’s Tear Gas and Tanks Will Confront Palestinian Marchers. But Brute Force Can’t Be Israel’s Only Answer |Opinion

.A Palestinian poster calling for people to join 'The Great March of Return' on the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, March 30 2018
A Palestinian poster calling for people to join ‘The Great March of Return’ on the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, March 30 2018

Over the last few days the Israel Defense Forces has warned that it would open fire on anyone who tries to breach the border fence and enter Israel

The IDF has brought a brigade, snipers and soldiers from various courses, to help local troops deal with Friday’s demonstration. The snipers have been instructed to shoot demonstrators who breach the fence.

In a ceremony marking a change of Military Intelligence commanders on Wednesday, Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said that the situation in Gaza is “highly explosive” and “threatens to damage the sensitive life fabric and safety of the region’s residents.”

<<Israel’s Defense Minister Says There’s No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza. Here Are the Facts<<

Eizenkot visited the Gaza division several times this week to supervise the preparations. On Wednesday he and Shin Bet chief Argaman presented to the cabinet ministers preparations and intelligence evaluations ahead of the events, noting that stopping the Palestinians from crossing the fence and entering Israel was the troops’ main task.

They also presented a scenario in which a large crowd comes to the tent compound on the other side of the fence. The assessment is that the army will manage to handle the event, though possibly only at the cost of Palestinian fatalities.

.'Grandfather, we will return soon' - Palestinian poster ahead of 'The Great Return March'

‘Grandfather, we will return soon’ – Palestinian poster ahead of ‘The Great Return March’

On Wednesday, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, warned the Palestinian bus companies slated to carry demonstrators to the fence that their entry permits would be revoked.

“We contacted more than 20 bus companies in Gaza, who were paid by Hamas to take people to violent demonstrations and warned that we’ll take personal steps against their owners,” he said.

Preparations for Friday’s event come in the wake of growing tension along the Gaza border and several attempts — some successful — to cross it.

On Wednesday, the army struck two Hamas observation posts in the northern Gaza Strip after two Palestinians set a fire near the border fence. The suspects did not cross into Israel.

Also Wednesday, a Palestinian from Gaza was arrested on the Zikim beach in Israel near the Gaza border and taken in for questioning. He was unarmed.

On Tuesday, three Palestinians, armed with grenades and knives, were found and arrested after infiltrating 20 kilometers into Israeli territory. On Saturday, Israel struck Hamas targets after four Palestinians carrying bottles filled with flammable material approached the fence on foot and managed to cross the border into Israel near Kibbutz Kissufim.

The army also said it will impose a closure on the West Bank and Gaza crossings for the duration of the Passover holiday. The closure will begin Thursday at midnight and be lifted on Saturday, April 7. The army added that passage will be allowed for humanitarian and medical cases, pending approval by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Israeli Intelligence Minister: Strike on Syrian Reactor Shows Israel Won’t Accept Nuclear Iran

March 21, 2018


Israel publicly acknowledgement for the first time that its F-16 and F-15 warplanes bombed a partially constructed nuclear facility near Deir al-Zor in 2007

.כותרת:	A still frame taken from video material released on March 21, 2018 shows a combination image of what the Israeli military describes is before and after an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor
A still frame taken from video material released on March 21, 2018 shows a combination image of what the Israeli military describes is before and after an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility HANDOUT/ REUTERS

Israel’s intelligence minister said that the operation to destroy Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007, which was cleared for publication on Wednesday, shows Israel will not allow “those threatening our existence to have nuclear weapons. Syria then and Iran today.”

In a tweet, Yisrael Katz said he saluted then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for destroying the Syrian reactor 11 years ago. “When all accounts are settled, destroying the reactor will stand in Olmert’s benefit,” he wrote, referencing the fact that Olmert stepped down from his leadership role as part of a corruption scandal for which he went on to serve jail time.

>> No longer a secret: How Israel destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor ■ Ten years of silence on Syria strike. Why now? ■ The real fallout from the strike ■ The intelligence failure: It took years for Israel to discover the reactor ■ Israeli strike on Syrian nuclear reactor: Battle of the memoirs >>

Israel for the first time confirmed that it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. The first public acknowledgement by Israel that its F-16 and F-15 warplanes carried out the September 6, 2007, bombing of the partially constructed Al-Kubar facility near Deir al-Zor was made after military censors lifted a more than 10-year order that had barred Israeli officials from discussing it.

The strike had already been extensively reported on abroad, and discussed by U.S. officials. Israel, however, kept quiet to avoid provoking Syrian reprisals and a possible regional war.

How the Syria strike unfolded

The Israeli military released newly declassified operational footage, photographs and intelligence documents about the bombing and detailing the intelligence operation that led up to it.

Israel concluded that the reactor had been under construction with North Korean help and was months away from activation. Reuters has been unable to immediately verify the Israeli material.

Israel’s decision to go public comes after repeated calls in recent months by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and international community to take tougher action on Syria’s ally, Iran.

Syrian nuclear reactor attack: Step by step

“The motivation of our enemies has grown in recent years, but so too the might of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces),” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday.

“Everyone in the Middle East would do well to internalize this equation,” he said.

The Israeli military described in detail the events leading up to the night of September 5 to September 6, 2007, in which, it said, eight warplanes took off from the Ramon and Hatzerim air bases and flew to Deir al-Zor region, 450 km northwest of Damascus, Syria, and dropped 18 tons of munitions.

Syria strike timeline

The operation was launched after it received intelligence indicating that “a substantial threat to Israel and the region, in the form of a nuclear reactor, was being built in Syria”.

Reuters contributed background to this story

Israeli planes raid Hamas in Gaza after explosion

March 18, 2018

Israeli F-15 I fighter jets. (Jack Guez/AFP)
JERUSALEM: Israeli military aircraft carried out a raid against a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip overnight after an explosive device detonated near the border with Israel, the military said Sunday.
“The Hamas terror organization is held accountable for all occurrences in and from the Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said.
Hamas is the main Palestinian Islamist movement controlling the Gaza Strip.
“The IDF will continue to operate for the safety of Israeli civilians, by all means at its disposal,” the Israeli military said, without giving further details.
According to Palestinian sources, the raid did not cause any casualties.
An explosive device went off late Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip near Israel’s border fence, the army said in an earlier statement, with no casualties reported.
Israel had already retaliated, with tanks targeting a Hamas observation post.
According to Palestinian sources, the retaliatory fire slightly injured one person.
Two explosive devices were detonated Thursday along the border, which had already provoked Israeli attacks on Hamas positions.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but Israel held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel, Hamas and its allies are observing a cease-fire since the 2014 war, the third in the enclave in six years.
The truce is regularly shaken, particularly by fire from the enclave into Israel, which systematically retaliates by targeting Hamas positions, even if the attacks are carried out by other groups.
On February 17, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an improvised explosive device on the border, sparking intense military retaliation.
Israel warplanes attacked 18 “terror targets belonging to Hamas” in Gaza in response to the blast, which severely wounded two of the soldiers, and a subsequent Palestinian rocket attack on southern Israel.

Israel Jets Strike Hamas Target in Retaliation for Gaza Border Explosions

March 18, 2018


Reports in Gaza say the Israel Air Force struck targets in the Strip’s center and south

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises over the Gaza Strip following an airstrike in November, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises over the Gaza Strip following an airstrike in November, 2017.Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israel Defense Forces said it struck a target belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip early Sunday morning in retaliation for an explosion on Israel’s border with the Strip the day before.

Reports in Gaza said the Israel Air Force struck targets in the enclave’s center and south.

In a statement, the IDF’s spokesman said the military “will continue to act with all means at its disposal in order to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel.” The statement added that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.

The explosive device that detonated Saturday caused no casualties or damage, according to the IDF. Shortly after the blast, the military said it retaliated with tank fire, destroying a Hamas outpost.

Media outlets based in Gaza said Israeli forces fired three shells at a Hamas post east of Gaza City. One man was lightly wounded and taken to Al-Shifa Hospital, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza stated.

The blast was the fourth incident in the last four weeks in which explosive devices targeting Israeli forces were detonated near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.

On Thursday, two roadside bombs were detonated against Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Gaza border. When the soldiers arrived at the border in patrol vehicles, two explosive devices went off. They had been placed 100 meters into Gaza. The army said it suspects that a rocket-propelled grenade was also fired at the soldiers.

Following Thursday’s incident, the IDF responded with tank fire and carried out an airstrike targeting five Hamas observation posts.

The most serious incident took place in February, when a device exploded near Israeli troops at the fence bordering the southern Gaza Strip. Two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded, one sustained moderate wounds and another was lightly wounded. In response to the incident, the army attacked the Gaza Strip.

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt during a visit to the Strip. The Palestinian Authority initially blamed Hamas for the explosion, which it said targeted Hamdallah’s convoy.

Later Tuesday, however, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Hamdallah, and the two blamed “Israel and its collaborators” for the attempt. The Palestinian leaders agreed that General Tawfiq Abu Naim, head of Gaza’s Interior Ministry, will lead the investigation into the incident.

Israeli Army Sets Up ‘Consciousness Ops’ Unit to Influence Enemy Armies, Foreign Media and Public Opinion

March 9, 2018


With eye on hearts and minds, Israeli army sets up a new ‘soft power’ psychological warfare unit

A woman sits near a sign at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/ Ammar Awad     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A woman sits near a sign at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/ Ammar Aw\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

As the new year began, the operations branch at Israel Defense Forces Central Command cut the ribbon on a new department, called the Center for Consciousness Operations. It is a reincarnation of another division that had engaged mainly in international legitimization and legal aspects of Israeli military activity, and had been subordinate to the Planning Branch.

The structural reform was the recommendation of Brig .Col. K, until recently a senior intelligence officer, who was appointed to study the issue. The idea was to concentrate planning all “soft” activity – with foreign armies, diplomats, the foreign press and public opinion – under one military roof. This was done as part of Israel’s effort to influence the enemy and Western opinion over Israel’s military moves on the northern front and in the territories.

At the height of the second intifada, the chief of staff at the time, Moshe Yaalon, was asked how we’d know that Israel had vanquished Palestinian suicide bombings. Yaalon answered that victory would be achieved through “cognitive etching” – Palestinian acknowledgement that the terror attacks wouldn’t drive Israel to capitulation.

>> Collision course in the north between Israel and Iran | Analysis <<

Yaalon was roundly mocked in the press but in retrospect, he was right. The terror attacks subsided mainly because both halves of the Palestinian leadership, in the Palestinian Authority and finally in Hamas, too, reached the conclusion that the price Israel was exacting from Palestinian public in response to terrorism was too high.

The incumbent chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot, also has keen interest in the battle over consciousness. It’s even mentioned in the latest IDF strategy paper. His close friend, Col. Gabi Siboni, recently published an article about the cognitive shaping drive, through INSS. Siboni and another researcher, Gal Perl Finkel, wrote that the “IDF has intensified its cognitive-related activity recently, significantly building up process in this area and developing technological tools. Technological development enables a wide range of focused means of influence vis-à-vis various target audiences, and in effect creates another combat arena beyond the classic kinetic combat arenas,” they wrote.

“Armies and states have to contend with the enemy’s attempts to gain influence using technology and social media” rather than traditional war. Armies and states must work defensively, countering enemy efforts proactively and on the offensive plane, “in order to achieve objectives by influencing enemy target audiences, including decision makers, commanders, combatants, and domestic and world public opinion.”

The army could stand to learn from civilian PR campaigns for selling things from products to politicians, they suggest.

Of course, it’s a slippery slope, one the army already went down, and not well, under the days of Miri Regev as IDF spokeswoman. But their conclusion, that technological changes and social media require the army to contend there too, is hard to contest. The broad coverage of the recent moves in the Arab press – from IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis’ article warning Hezbollah and Iran on Arab websites, to intelligence widely disseminated in Western media – indicate that this is just the beginning.

Israeli Army Setting Up Extensive Database With Personal Details of Palestinians Collected at Checkpoints

March 8, 2018


After Haaretz reported that soldiers are erecting random checkpoints to collect personal details of Palestinians, the military explains it’s part of Israel’s use of big-data to foil terror attacks

.Israeli soldiers standing guard at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank on March 7, 2018.
Israeli soldiers standing guard at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank on March 7, 2018. ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

The personal details of West Bank Palestinian men that the army recently began collecting is intended for an anti-terror database. Career and reserve officers said the hope is that the information, from randomly selected individuals, can be used to foil terror attacks and to help the security forces to operate after such attacks.

>>> Israeli army erects West Bank checkpoints to collect Palestinians’ personal details

As Haaretz reported Wednesday, the army recently began to collect personal details of West Bank Palestinian men. Soldiers set up temporary checkpoints, requiring young men who pass through to fill out forms listing their name, age, telephone number, identification number, type of vehicle and license number. They also must submit a photocopy of their ID and giving both the origin and destination of the trip that brought them to the checkpoint.

The details are collected randomly, from young men — women, children and old people are exempt — who aren’t suspected of a crime or who have a police record. Soldiers who took part in the activity say the aim is to obtain as many details about the people they detain as possible.

The checkpoints operate in the early morning, when large numbers of Palestinians are on the way to work, further exacerbating the usual rush-hour traffic jams.

The soldiers at each checkpoint must submit at least 100 completed forms for each shift, while the quota for the foot patrols is 30.

Soldiers in compulsory service, not to mention soldiers doing reserve duty, have bridled at the new policy, questioning the invasion of privacy that it entails as well as the disturbance to daily life.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted on several occasions about Israel’s use of “big data” to foil terror attacks. But until now the information was scraped from social media and signals intelligence by the army’s Unit 8200 and the Shin Bet security service.

The outgoing chief of Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, spoke about the Israel Defense Forces dealing with “lone-wolf assailants.”

“In the past three years we have dealt with changes in the Palestinian arena,” Numa said. “In addition to organized terror and spontaneous terrorism we’ve learned to deal with for dozens of years, we’ve had to find a solution to ‘inspired terror.’ During this period intelligence and operative tools were developed. Since the outbreak of the recent terror wave hundreds of intentions to carry out attacks were detected and thwarted.”

Ron Zaidel of Breaking the Silence said this was “ratcheting up the surveillance of the general Palestinian population.”

“It seems this is a project to set up an extensive databank. Another example that ruling millions of Palestinians requires us to improve the soldiers’ methods in order to deepen the occupation and protect the settlements,” he said.

Meretz party Secretary General Mossi Raz said “the IDF is again using practices of intimidation and threats over civilian population, creating an illegal reserve of personal details. Instead of our children serving the IDF they are carrying out policing jobs that would put dark regimes to shame.”

The IDF said its forces were carrying out inspections in the West Bank as part of “an operative perception and to prevent error, while attempting to disrupt the residents’ routine in a minimal way. The detained drivers are asked a few questions, used for security needs. In contrast to the report, there is no quota the soldiers have to fill.”

Israel simulates war in Lebanon, amid tensions with Iran, Hezbollah

February 22, 2018

Reservist, conscript brigades take part in large-scale exercises along the Lebanese border to ‘improve preparedness on the northern front,’ army says

Times of Israel
February 22, 2018
The IDF's 188th Armored Brigade takes part in a large exercise  in northern Israel meant to simulate war in Lebanon in February 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF’s 188th Armored Brigade takes part in a large exercise in northern Israel meant to simulate war in Lebanon in February 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF Galilee Division on Thursday completed a series of large-scale exercises designed to prepare the military for a potential rapidly unfolding war in Lebanon, the army said amid rising tensions in recent weeks along Israel’s northern frontier.

“Conscripted soldiers, along with reservists, took part in the exercise. They practiced a rapid call-up of reservists, as well as operational capabilities and readiness to fight in Lebanese terrain,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

In addition, the army’s 188th Armored Brigade conducted its own, separate exercise in northern Israel, along with troops from combat engineering, infantry and artillery.

The drills came amid heightened tensions in the country’s north, following aerial clashes between the Israeli air force and the Syrian military earlier this month, and amid an ongoing diplomatic dispute between Israel and Lebanon over a portion of the Mediterranean Sea, which is believed to contain a natural gas reserve, that each claims as its own.

“The brigade exercises were held as part of the enhanced 2018 training program. Their purpose is to prepare combat soldiers and their commanders for any scenario, and to enhance their readiness and capabilities for real-time threats,” the army said.

Col. Manny Liberty, the head of the 769th Territorial Brigade, which is responsible for defending the eastern portion of the Lebanese border, said the exercise improved both the offensive and defensive capabilities of his unit.

“We will continue to train and prepare to ensure the security of the residents of this region,” Liberty said.

During the tank brigade’s exercise, the troops simulated “a variety of scenarios, and were required to practice logistic and operational efficiency over a prolonged period of fighting,” the army said.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot meets with Col. Gal Shochami, head of the 188th Armored Brigade, during a large exercise in northern Israel meant to simulate war in Lebanon on February 20, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The commander of the 188th Brigade, Col. Gal Shochami, stressed the importance of the exercise as conflict could break out at any time.

“We must remember the meaning of the command, ‘War tomorrow,’ which tells us that any training situation may be the last before the real test of our abilities: the battlefield,” Shochami said.

“The 188th Brigade will be ready to fight on the battlefield, whenever, and wherever it will be required,” he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, visited the exercises in northern Israel, speaking with the commanders of the various participating units and assessing the brigade’s abilities, the army said.

The military faced deep criticism following the 2006 Second Lebanon War against the Hezbollah terrorist group over its failure to properly train soldiers for the types of fighting they encountered in the conflict, having instead focused on preparing troops for West Bank counter-terrorism operations.

In the interim 12 years, the army sought to address that issue, building special facilities that mimic southern Lebanese terrain and investing considerably more resources in training exercises for reservists.

In September, the military conducted its largest exercise in decades, aimed specifically at simulating a war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

This has all been to prepare for another bout with the terrorist group and its supporters — Iran and Syria — which many defense officials and analysts see as only a matter of time.

The prospects of such a clash between Israel and the Iranian-led axis of Tehran, Damascus and the Beirut-based Hezbollah were raised following a significant aerial exchange earlier this month.

Earlier this month, an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace near the Jordanian border before it was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. In response to the drone incursion, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said at the time.

During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft fire and crashed. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

In the aftermath of the exchange, officials from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah boasted that the downing of the F-16 marked the end of Israel’s ability to freely operate in the region. Meanwhile, Israeli officials said the fact that the air force destroyed a sizable portion of Syria’s air defenses after the F-16 was shot down proved that the Jewish state maintained its aerial superiority in the Middle East.