Israel's defense undone by reliance on technology

Published date05 November 2023
AuthorAssaf Gilead
Publication titleGlobes (Rishon LeZion, Israel)
The fence that, until October 7, separated Israel and the Gaza Strip was completed in December 2021, 60 years after construction of the Berlin Wall began. It was intended to protect against a major security threat, but in practice it was much leaner than that. The fence was almost unmanned by soldiers, and relied mainly on sensors, above and below ground, surveillance cameras, and vehicle patrols. And, of course, there was no surrounding minefield

After Operation Protective Edge in 2014 revealed that Hamas forces were able to penetrate the Gaza border settlements at several points via underground tunnels, it was decided in 2016 to build a defense line focused on this threat called "the anti-tunnel barrier" that would replace the existing fence. The upper section of the barrier was based mainly on a fence called the "sand clock," which had only proved itself in stopping illegal immigrants on the Israel-Egypt border - the same fence that then-US President Donald Trump enthused over, and wanted to duplicate on the US southern border.

The cost of the barriers was NIS 3.5 billion, mostly for the below-ground section. It was presented as a high-tech project and as a great technological achievement that would be an additional layer of protection from the Gazan threat, along with the Iron Dome. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) boasted that "the amount of concrete invested in it could pave a road from Israel to Bulgaria, and the amount of iron and steel could equal an iron bar from here to Australia". At that time, the Ministry of Defense claimed it would be integrated into the "Smart and Lethal Border" project that was being tested along the northern border of the Gaza Strip which, the Ministry of Defense stated, included mobile robots and military drones for carrying out defense missions, without endangering soldiers' lives.

At the time of the completion of the fence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then in the opposition, referred mainly to the below-ground aspect, saying that "Any time Hamas terrorists have tried to penetrate the border settlements through the tunnels, they were terminated underground. The below-ground barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip has already saved many lives." Then-Minister of Defense Benny Gantz said, "The barrier, which is a superior initial technological and inventive project that sets an iron wall, sensors and concrete between it and the residents of the south. It provides a sense of personal security that will allow this beautiful region to continue to grow."

"The concept underlying the construction of an advanced technology fence relates to the Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah surmounted a high fence with a ladder," says Yehoshua Kalisky , senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). "This was the reference scenario. There was no thought that they would use aircraft here to cross it or that they would come with a heavy machinery, and simply breach it."

The illusion of superiority

On the morning of Saturday, October 7, the above-ground section of the barrier turned out to be completely insubstantial, as was its fundamental concept of defense. Using drones easily purchased on the Internet, Hamas disabled both the cameras transmitting images to control room monitors in real time, and the (See and Fire) long distance stationary remote controlled weapon stations (RCWS). There had been a second line of defense, observation balloons, but for unknown reasons, all three had stopped working some weeks before the attack, and repairs were postponed until "after the holidays."

Israel's drone warfare fleet, which is capable of jamming signals of a hostile drone, and the attack drone fleet, known for warfare against incendiary balloons, also did not work for unknown reasons, and dozens of Hamas drones operated without interruption. The IDF's Iron Beam high energy laser (HEL) interception system, which was developed for such cases, among other things, has not yet entered into operational activity after many years of development. All allowed the Hamas terrorists to quickly reach the IDF bases along the Gaza border, disable the information and communications technology (ICT) systems, neutralizing the ability to call...

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