UAVs over the Gaza Strip UAVs over the Gaza Strip UAVs over the Gaza Strip Since the beginning of the ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip, unmanned aerial vehicles have been accompanying ground forces every step of the way. They have been combing the territory, warning the troops of impending threats, preventing “friendly fire” and are dispatched to the border in case of terrorist infiltration of Israeli territory

Nadav Berger

IDF ground forces have been on the ground in the Gaza Strip for five days in order to find terror tunnels, rocket launchers and to deal Hamas forces a heavy blow. The IAF’s UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) have been circling above them and have been in constant communication with them in order to assist them in their different missions.

Avoiding “Friendly Fire”

In addition to collecting intelligence and directing IAF aircrafts to different targets to conduct airstrikes, UAV operators have been combing the area in which ground forces operate. “Every time ground forces maneuver, they are accompanied by at least one UAV that combs the territory where they are maneuvering and alerts them to any threats it identifies, from a suspicious house to shooting to a group of unidentified people or anything else that might pose a threat”, explains Major Omer, Deputy Commander of the “First UAV” squadron, which operates the “Heron 1” drone. “If the need arise to attack an identified target, the soldiers of the squadron will direct the ground forces or an IAF aircraft to the target, depending on the type of target”.

Cooperation between the forces is largely based on the needs that arise, from those on the ground to those in the air. The UAV operators are attentive to the ground units-or the “consumer” as they are called-and assist them in many cases. “If, for example, the force is under fire from an unidentified source, it immediately reports it to the UAV operators and they provide them with a description of the source of firing”.

One of the main topics emphasized in the activities of the UAV Division is avoiding so-called “friendly fire”. “We try to work in an organized fashion in order to differentiate our forces from the enemy”, explains Major Omer. “This is also essential for us so that we will be able to explain to the ground forces who is actually standing in front of them and also to avoid airstrikes on IDF forces”.

Dealing With Tunnels

Another threat that has become serious, especially since the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge”, is the tunnels from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli territory. Just yesterday morning, terrorists wearing IDF uniforms tried to infiltrate Israeli territory through a tunnel and the incident was contained by an IAF aircraft and IDF forces that were in the area. This was not the first attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory that was thwarted since the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge”.

In each case in which an infiltrate attempt was detected, the UAVs operated in the Gaza Strip were called to the scene immediately, combed the area for the terrorists and directed ground force fire to them. “We are always on alert for infiltrations and we are ready for combat in cooperation with the ground forces”, explains Major Omer. “In each of the infiltrations reported to the media so far, the UAV squadrons played a very significant role in eliminating the threat”.