They keep close tabs on potential terrorists. They connect the dots to build a situational assessment. They direct infantry forces from the moment a target is discovered to the second it’s neutralized. And they do it all with incredible precision. Meet the elite unit of the Combat Intelligence Corps: The Target Intelligence Unit.
Their job is classified and not many have heard of them. This is no surprise, considering that spies hardly wish to talk about themselves or leave behind any traces. It’s in the unit’s very DNA–to see and not be seen. Soldiers in the Target Intelligence Unit position themselves on the outskirts of enemy territory, surveying their targets from as close as it gets. It’s these soldiers that deliver information directly from the field, and offer a situational assessment in real-time.
The Threat of Hezbollah
The ‘Shachaf’ company of the Target Intelligence Unit is responsible for surveying Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where the terrorist organization Hezbollah operates. Hezbollah, armed by Syria and Iran, has launched multiple attacks on Israel; most recently, in March of 2014, in clear violation of UN Resolution 1701, Hezbollah terrorists activated two 20 kg explosive devices against IDF (Zahal) soldiers near the Lebanese border. Later, In January 2015, Hezbollah launched an anti-tank missile attack on Israeli territory near Mt. Dov, killing two IDF (Zahal) soldiers.
Map of Israel’s Northern Border
Lt. Col. Yaniv Ben Ezra explains that Hezbollah is capable of carrying out precise, lethal attacks. The terrorist organization frequently hides among Lebanese civilians, “making it difficult to tell whether you are looking at an innocent shepherd or at a Hezbollah terrorist.” The Target Intelligence Unit aims to uncover Hezbollah terrorist activity in southern Lebanon, and to collect the intelligence that will enable it to distinguish between civilians and terrorists. Lt. Col. Ben Ezra explains that the unit “knows precisely where a specific terrorist lives, what time he leaves each morning, and where he goes during the day.”
Piecing Together the Puzzle
“We have to put together the puzzle pieces, to zoom in to maximum resolution,” explains Brigadier General Moti Baruch, the former commander of Division 162. The advantage of the Target Intelligence Unit is that it operates on the frontline. The unit “instantaneously collects intelligence as events unfold, which is critical for a division commander who can’t be in all places at all times.”
Each squad within the unit is divided into three sections: Intelligence, Target Assessment, and Control. In addition, each squad includes a photographer and a camouflage expert. The squads are stationed regularly in the field alongside infantry forces, yet they position themselves mere meters from potential targets. Clever camouflage allows them to see clearly without being detected. During operations, it’s the squads that deliver real-time intelligence.
Hezbollah militants seen operating near the Lebanese border with Israel
The Ever Changing Reality
Terrorists hide among civilians, making intelligence gathering ever more challenging. Soldiers in the Target Intelligence Unit have learned to think creatively, work with precision and attention to detail, and stay ahead of the enemy. With the growing threat of Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, this unit will continue to survey, expose and detect.