The IDF (Zahal) Mechanical Engineering Company of the Northern Division in Gaza faces many challenges. They have to cope with terror tunnels, explosive devices, snipers and anti-tank missiles on a daily basis. Recently, the company held a week of special training in its operational sector.
“This exercise is actually a kind of operation,” explained Major Ibrahim Baha, the Chief of the Combat Engineering Corps in the Northern Division in Gaza. “The soldiers are in a situation almost identical to an actual operation. They are under constant threat. For example, during similar exercises, mortars have been fired at us.”
Throughout the week, the company, also known as the Steel Cats, performed important and complicated tasks such as building protected roads for tanks and clearing trees and bushes where terrorists can hide and attack soldiers. “The forces carry out their tasks with great efficiency.” Maj. Baha explained. “Usually, building a barrier takes weeks, but the company managed to build one within 15 hours.”
The Steel Cats also simulated a situation in which soldiers were wounded and needed to be evacuated by helicopter.
During the past several years, smuggling tunnels have been used by terrorists to execute attacks against civilians and military personnel and have become one of the main threats the company faces. “The tunnel threat is not new,” Maj. Baha explained. “I’ve been in the army for over a decade, and I’ve been dealing with tunnels for over a decade. In the past year, every soldier in the Gaza division has had to deal with the tunnel threat.”
Explosive Devices and Snipers
Soldiers who patrol the Gaza border are frequently threatened by explosive devices that terrorists plant along the fence and by gunfire from snipers across the border. Soldiers have been injured or killed during patrols along the fence on more than one occasion.
“Our company commander was hit by two explosive devices a month ago, and he is just one of many,” Maj. Baha said. “But working with our tools prevents these events.”