At an Israel Defense Forces command center at Kissufim on the border with Gaza, six 18- and 19-year-old female soldiers sit staring at black-and-white screens that show what's happening inside the Strip.
When fog sets in and the monitors become useless, the spotters switch to radar. They are under the command of a woman their own age who, for her four-hour shift, is responsible for monitoring dozens of kilometers inside Gaza.
In the middle of the command-center room, on a raised podium with additional screens, a seat is reserved for the operator of a "see and shoot" system. This technology is capable of identifying a band of militants or a lone individual; it can also direct heavy machine-gun fire into the Strip from a tower near the border. There are similar facilities at all four battalion command centers along the frontier.
The IDF Spokesman's Office regularly reports about military actions taken against bands of militants spotted inside Gaza. Less known, however, is that in almost all these incidents, the initial detection and even the gunfire is carried out by these spotters, who have only become fully operational in the past year and a half. Dozens of terrorists have been hit after being identified by the spotters.
"If I don't report to the force on the ground that the person is armed, they will not shoot at him," says Sgt. Sapir Gonen, a lookout shift commander at the Nahal Oz command center on the border. She says that "every soldier at the command center needs the operational skill to know what weapons look like ... and how an armed man conducts himself, as opposed to someone who is not armed." She called the job "a very great responsibility."
The spotters often argue with the commanders of ground forces over potential targets. "I have to make it clear to the company commander that [he] happens to be a guy with rank, but a spotter is sitting here and she sees things from a better angle," Gonen said. "And we have experience of people who are here all year."