When they were kids, they spent their free time exploring the forests near their houses, searching for animals and playing ‘hide and seek’, finding each other just by following one another’s footsteps.
Today, they’re the first on call in the field, using their deep knowledge of Israel’s terrain and their tracking skills to give recommendations in real-time to senior commanders on how to deal with violent incidents. Meet the Bedouin Reconnaissance Unit of Judea and Samaria.
We joined one of the unit’s companies during their routine training. They were practicing how to neutralize a burning tire, thrown in the direction of soldiers and civilians. This tire, the soldiers explained, isn’t as harmless as it seems from afar – it’s attached to an explosive device. There’s no mistaking the intention.
Bedouin trackers in action
FROM PRACTICE TO REALITY
IDF (Zahal) trackers deal with all different kinds of violent incidents:
1. Hurling rocks and Molotov Cocktails
Rock-hurling and Molotov cocktail-throwing is very common in Judea and Samaria. The act tends to be underestimated: rocks can kill, and Molotov cocktails have caused many casualties. Locating Palestinians who throw rocks is a difficult mission because of the fast and spontaneous nature of this kind of act.
But this doesn’t stop our trackers: they analyze every rock and every Molotov cocktail, figuring out the distance and direction from which it was hurled. They can tell where the people who hurled them came from only by their footprints, and in which direction they ran away.
Senior commanders scan the ground
2. Booby-trapped burning tires and explosive devices
Scanning is the most important part of a tracker’s work. As we mentioned, a burning tire isn’t always ‘innocent’, and an explosive device isn’t always visible in the field. When scanning the ground’s surface, the trackers work in teams and divide the scanned area between them. This way they’re able to notice every sign of hidden or disguised explosives.
When locating an explosive device, the trackers run the show: they make sure there are no other explosive devices on the scene, help keep civilians safe, and recommend further steps to the senior commanders.
Practicing the neutralization of a booby-trapped burning tire
3. Infiltrations of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria
It’s always difficult to determine whether an infiltration of a community in Judea and Samaria is a criminal act or a terror attack. Whenever someone touches a community’s security fence, a team of trackers immediately arrives at the scene. By tracing footprints and estimating the weight of the object that touched the fence, they can tell if it’s simply an animal that passed by, or whether it’s a criminal or terrorist trying to break through the fence. The trackers locate the infiltrator by the tools he left behind, and prevent damage to lives and property.
Searching for footprints on the ground
Protecting civilians from violent attacks is an everyday mission. The Bedouin trackers, as well as other combat soldiers, play a very important role in keeping the civilians of Judea and Samaria safe, and protecting their right to live in safety and security.