IDF conducts mock kidnapping in West Bank

The Israel Defense Forces conducted a drill in the West Bank on Thursday simulating a kidnapping, a scenario similar to the deadly events that preceded the 2014 Gaza war.

Troops from the Judea and Samaria Division participated in the week-long drill that practiced a scenario in which a kidnapping occurs and the troops had to locate the suspect and release the hostage.

Lt. Yossi Eliaz, commander of the Rotem battalion in the Givati ​​brigade, said that while there has been no kidnapping since the deadly kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in 2014, it is a scenario that can happen again.

The drill lasted two days and saw troops under Eliaz’s command practicing complicated kidnapping scenarios where troops have to enter Palestinian villages to find civilian hostages. During the searches, the troops encountered scenes of violent disturbances, something the army knows confronts soldiers in real life events.

It took 12 hours for troops to find the hostages and arrest the suspect along with the special forces of the Duvedevan military command and Maglan units.

The ceremony marks 5 years since the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers at the Oz veGaon Nature Reserve in Gush Etzion, July 2019 (credit: SOVEREIGNTY MOVEMENT)

“There is always pressure to provide security. The silence is due to the work of the defense system, but something can happen and we have to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen, ”Eliaz said.

The IDF carried out a similar surprise exercise last year during a large-scale surprise drill involving thousands of troops. During the drill, there was a surprise exercise launched by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, which simulated the army’s response to a kidnapping and examined the division’s ability to handle such a scenario and the cooperation between the army and others. bodies.

Joining the IDF were officers from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, the police and civilian bodies such as the Magen David Adom fire and rescue services.

In 2014, a Hamas cell operating in the West Bank kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers at a popular hitchhiking spot in Gush Etzion, near Jerusalem. The IDF launched Operation Brother’s Guardian to find Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, and found their bodies on June 26, two weeks after they were abducted.

During Operation Brother’s Keeper, the IDF arrested some 350 Palestinians, including several Hamas leaders in the West Bank. In retaliation for the arrests, Hamas began firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, prompting Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge with the stated intention of stopping the rocket fire.

The 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas lasted 7 weeks and resulted in the deaths of 67 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians and 2,125 Palestinians, including 936 militants and 761 civilians.

Two months after the kidnapping of a senior Hamas official, Salah al-Arouri, regarded as Hamas’ military commander in the West Bank and since appointed as the group’s deputy leader, said the organization’s armed wing, the Izz Brigades ad- Din al-Qassam, was behind the kidnapping.

Since then, the IDF has improved the level of intelligence gathering and sharing in the West Bank in an attempt to stay one step ahead of deadly terrorist attacks.

The system includes an increase in surveillance cameras and other sensors in key West Bank locations, includes advanced computer analytics and visual intelligence that are all connected to a main system in an established special operations room.

The military says the system helps identify imminent threats, thwart attacks in real time, and prevent the pursuit of terrorists who escape after an attack.

“Today we have a lot more sensors and other systems that can be used,” Eliaz said, explaining that due to the new capabilities, they can collect and use more precise intelligence, as well as other forces in the area more frequently.

But despite the new technology, the IDF must always think about future attacks.

“We need to be ready and prepare for them,” he said.

A report from The Washington Post He said part of the system is facial recognition technology that is building a digital surveillance database of residents of the Palestinian city of Hebron. According to the report, the system is based in part on a smartphone technology called Blue Wolf that captures photos of the faces of Hebron residents and compares them to a massive database.

While Eliaz said the atmosphere on the ground “the area is stable and relatively calm,” there are certain parts of the West Bank that have seen an increase in violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

A report by the NGO B’Tselem said that 451 settler attacks on Palestinians have been documented in the West Bank. Israeli forces were said to have failed to intervene in 170 of them, and as a result, five Palestinians were killed and 22 were arrested.

B’Tselem said that the army “does not prevent attacks and, in some cases, soldiers even participate in them.” He said law enforcement does little to crack down on settlers committing violent acts against Palestinians “and will cover up the few cases it has to address.”

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