Their work is essential when searching for clues in places where terror attacks occurred. They know every inch of the ground like the palm of their hand and are able to detect even the smallest changes. Meet the Bedouin Reconnaissance Unit of Judea and Samaria.
In recent months, there has been a rapid increase in violence in Judea and Samaria. Stone hurling, burning tires, stabbings, and shootings are becoming disturbingly frequent. Among the first called to the scene of these violent incidents are the soldiers of the Bedouin Reconnaissance Unit, unofficially called ‘gashashim’, – ‘trackers’, or literally, ‘feelers’. Their knowledge of the terrain and their tracking skills help them give recommendations in real-time to senior commanders on how to deal with these incidents.
Many of the Bedouins serving in the IDF (Zahal) are nomadic pastoralists, raised in sparsely populated areas. As children, they spent much time outside, and thus developed intuitive tracking, which they call ‘the sense’. “We are regular soldiers, just like every other infantry unit,” said Warrant Officer Salaj Sabuad who has been a tracker for more than 23 years. “We take part in every incident that happens in our field.”
Warrant Officer Sabuad explained that the Bedouins learn how to track from their experience as pastors. When herding the animals, their senses, such as smell, sight and hearing, improve. “The job familiarized us with nature and taught us to look for the signs hidden in it,” said Sabuad.
A tracker’s work is based on following signs left by suspects. Just by looking at footprints, Sabuad can decipher the age of the terrorist, his height, the direction in which he was headed, if he was running or walking, and what kind of shoes he was wearing.
IDF (Zahal) trackers know every inch of the terrain in which they work, and if something is out of place, they notice. When a tracker changes sectors, it takes him several months to learn the new terrain. Sabuad explained that a tracker cannot be replaced by technology; though robots and computers can neutralize a bomb and take pictures, they can’t decipher where the bomb came from or discover any information about the person who placed it there.
Protecting civilians from violent attacks is an everyday mission. Warrant Officer Salaj Sabuad and other trackers continue to use their intuition and skill in order to find the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria.