Months After Issuing Tender, Israeli Military Still Has No Answer to Aerial Arson From Gaza

The IDF acknowledges it was slow to grasp the effect of the aerial threat on the sense of security in border communities; Laser-based weapon in development by defense establishment not yet operational

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File photo: An incendiary balloon launched from Gaza was intercepted by an IDF drone. October 19, 2018.
File photo: An incendiary balloon launched from Gaza was intercepted by an IDF drone. October 19, 2018.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

In June the Defense Ministry asked companies in Israel and abroad to develop a rapid-deployment interceptor system against the incendiary kites and balloons being flown across the border from Gaza. The IDF acknowledges it was slow to grasp the effect of the aerial threat on the sense of security in the border communities, and the resulting pressure for a major military operation

Nearly a year after issuing a tender to private companies in Israel and abroad to develop an intercept system for the incendiary kites and balloons coming from Gaza, the defense establishment is still struggling to find a solution to this threat. The tender was issued last June following the rise in such incidents. The IDF was looking for a lightweight, hand-operated solution that could be operated by just one soldier. It also wanted the system to be able to be rapidly deployed and immediately supplied.

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Two days ago, a drone from Gaza was downed near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Although it didn’t threaten the forces that were near the crossing, the IDF is not ruling out the possibility that Hamas will use this method of operation to execute terror attacks against military outposts and civilian communities near the Gaza border and thereby sow panic. Intelligence officials have been warning of such a scenario for some time. Drones carrying explosives that were meant to harm civilians and soldiers have been brought down in Israel before.

The IDF acknowledges that it was slow to grasp the effect the fires were having on the Gaza border communities and their sense of security, and is trying to find solutions to this threat. The army is also aware of the potential for escalation on the Gaza border, as a result of calls for a major military operation in Gaza in response to the fires and the pressure being put on the government. The assessment of the IDF and the politicians is that it will be hard for the residents of the border areas to cope with a renewal of the fires there.

The defense establishment and military industries have been working since mid-2018 to come up with a suitable interception system, but as of now there is no operational system and the IDF cannot say when one will be ready. The tender called for the system to be portable and to be able to hit the aerial devices from up to 600 meters away. The IDF is interested in laser systems, or systems based on other technologies, that could be operated by air defense troops to down the drones, incendiary balloons and incendiary kites. Other requirements included supply of the system for a specified trial period, and for it to be able to work for three hours without needing electrical charging.

A senior officer in the ground forces said recently that the defense establishment is currently developing an effective laser-based tool that could strike the drones and incendiary balloons, but it does not yet have operational capabilities. He said the decision to look to the civilian market to find a solution was made when no company within the military was found that could provide the answer.

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