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IDF holds exercise to simulate kidnapping in the West Bank

CM 15/11/2021

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The Israel Defense Forces last week carried out a drill in the West Bank simulating a kidnapping, a scenario similar to the deadly events that preceded the 2014 Gaza war.
Troops from the Judea and Samaria Division took part in the drill that practiced a scenario where a kidnapping takes place and troops had to locate the suspect and free the hostage.
Lt.-Col. Yossi Eliaz, commander of the Rotem battalion in the Givati brigade, said that while there hasn’t been a kidnapping since the deadly 2014 kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers it’s a scenario that can happen again.

The drill lasted two days and saw troops under Eliaz’s command practice scenarios of complicated kidnappings where troops have to enter Palestinian villages in order to find the civilian hostages. During the searches, troops encountered scenarios of violent rioting, something the military knows faces soldiers in real events.
It took troops 12 hours to find the hostages and arrest the suspect along with special forces from the military’s Duvedevan and Maglan commando units. 

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

“There’s always the pressure to provide security. The calm is because of the work by the defense establishment, but something can happen and we have to do everything to make sure it doesn’t come to pass,” Eliaz said.
The IDF carried out a similar surprise exercise last year during a large-scale surprise drill with thousands of troops taking part. During the drill, there was a surprise exercise launched by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi simulating the military’s response to a kidnapping and examining the division’s ability to handle such a scenario and the cooperation between the military and other bodies.
Alongside the IDF were officers from the Shin Bet internal security agency, police, and civilian bodies like Magen David Adom rescue services and firefighters.
In 2014 a Hamas cell operating in the West Bank kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers from a popular hitchhiking spot in Gush Etzion near Jerusalem. The IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper in order to find 16 year-olds Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah and found their bodies on June 26, two weeks after they were kidnapped.  
During that operation, the IDF arrested some 350 Palestinians, including several Hamas leaders in the West Bank. In retaliation for the arrests, Hamas began launching rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza Strip, leading Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge with the stated intent to stop rocket fire.
The 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas lasted seven weeks and led to the deaths of 67 soldiers and six Israeli civilians and 2,125 Palestinians including 936 militants and 761 civilians.
Two months after the kidnapping senior Hamas official Salah al-Arouri, considered as Hamas’ military commander in the West Bank and since appointed as the group’s deputy leader, said that the organization’s armed wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, 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 terror attacks. 
The system includes an increase in surveillance cameras and other sensors in key West Bank locations includes advanced computer analytics and visual intelligence which are all connected to one main system in a special operations room established. 
The military says the system assists in identifying imminent threats, foiling attacks in real-time, and preventing manhunts of terrorists who get away following 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 are able to gather and use more precise intelligence as well as other forces in the area more often.
But despite the new technology, the IDF needs to always think of future attacks.
“We need to be ready and prepare for them,” he said.
A report by The Washington Post said that 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 Hebron residents’ faces and matches them to a mass database.
While Eliaz said that the atmosphere on the ground “the area is stable and relatively quiet,” there are certain parts of the West Bank that have seen a rise in violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
A report by the NGO B’Tselem said that there have been 451 documented settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli forces were said to have not intervened in 170 of them and as a result, five Palestinians were killed and 22 arrested.
B’Tselem said the military “does not prevent the attacks, and in some cases, soldiers even participate in them.” It said that law enforcement does little to take action against settlers who commit violent acts against Palestinians “and whitewashes the few cases it is called upon to address.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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