Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Inside an Israeli Missile Defense Team

February 13, 2012 12:41 pm 1 comment

Iron Dome missile defense system in Ashkelon, Israel. Photo: wiki commons.

A chilling wintry wind blows over a water tower on the outskirts of coastal Ashkelon on the evening of Feb. 8, as a full moon rises to the east. A small group of IDF soldiers shivers on the flat concrete roof as they scan the darkening skies and wait.

On the first evening of a two-day drill, Home Front Command (HFC) spotter teams, geared and trained to identify incoming missile fire from a foe to the east—presumably Iran—are here to methodically practice their responses and to test their reaction time.

Their mission is simple, but their role is crucial: using an advanced laser-guided spotter scope, they follow a rocket’s trajectory and alert waiting HFC ground units of its expected point of impact.

“Our role is to track an incoming missile attack against Israel and direct the troops on the ground to arrive as fast as they can (to the impact site), and handle the threat on the ground,” IDF Cap. (res.) and ops commander Noam Ginzburg tells JointMedia News Service.

The decades-old white Mekorot Water Company structure overlooks a major north-south highway and a busy intersection leading into Ashkelon.

An operator of the tripod-mounted, GPS-synched device zeros in on the falling projectile, and follows its path. At the press of a button, the device fires an infrared laser beam at two points along the projectile’s falling arc. From that moment, internal programming extrapolates the full path into the ground and calculates to within a few feet where the projectile will hit within the heavily populated urban area.

Ginzburg, in his mid-30s, shoulders the responsibility of protecting the densely populated, target-rich coastal area stretching from Kassam-battered Sderot alongside the Gaza Strip, some five kilometers to the south, to Ashdod and its strategic port several kilometers to the north.

Ashkelon, itself home to a major power station, oil and natural gas pipelines, wharves, and numerous other strategic infrastructure facilities, has sustained dozens of Kassam and Grad rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza over the years. Luckily, however, none have managed to strike the facilities—yet.

The ground units “should be able to arrive at the affected area within a minute to a minute and a half,” Ginzburg says of the Hazmat-prepped forces. On Feb. 9, an army source says, the teams planned to drill hits by non-conventional warheads, including chemical weapons.

Down below, in a open field alongside the tower and over at a nearby gas station, soldiers fire a series of red flares several hundred meters into the air in different directions, in order to randomly simulate a rocket’s fiery exhaust and give the spotters’ gear something to lock on to.

The HFC has learned the hard way—from experiences during the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, 2009’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and Iraq’s 39 Scuds fired at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War—that the ability to accurately and immediately identify the precise spot a rocket hits can be difficult.

“The problem” deputy commander, Cap. (res.) Amit Sabag says, “is that the moment you have hits in urban areas, in addition to the IDF’s updates, the police and municipal emergency forces get hundreds of calls from residents saying, ‘The rocket hit here; the rocket hit there,’ and this phenomena can mislead you.”

The drill came a day after an announcement by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, during a U.S. visit to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i was pegged to become Israel’s next envoy to China.

Vilna’i’s ministry, established just over a year ago, was to be “a new stage in the improvement of Israel’s readiness for an emergency,” he said at the time.

“The Israeli home front is made up of millions of people and thousands of bodies and organizations that need to know how to prepare for a time of emergency and how to act when such a situation occurs, whether it be a military confrontation or a natural disaster. The Ministry of Home Front Defense will guide, lead and coordinate all of the bodies that go into action on the civilian front in a time of emergency, and will work to improve their preparedness for emergency,” according to Vilna’i.

It’s unclear, so far, who will replace him in the post.

While the timing of the decision raised eyebrows in Israel due to the rapidly escalating tensions over a potential Israeli military strike to foil Iran’s clandestine drive to attain nuclear weapons, Ginzburg said the timing of the drill itself was coincidental.

“We planned this months ago, and we do it every year,” he said, adding that political appointments at the top were not their concern on the ground.

Politics aside, the HFC, along with the Israel Police, fire departments, municipal first-responders, Magen David Adom and Zaka rescue services, and Israelis from the Golan Heights to Eilat, have in the past year stepped up detailed simulations of the aftermath of a mass missile attack on the Jewish State.

JointMedia News Service was on hand for several such drills, among them a rapid, orderly evacuation of over 500 middle school students in Jerusalem into prepared bomb shelters with filtered ventilation, and another that tested full-scale emergency rescue responses to a rocket strike on a Tel Aviv power station, including mass triage after a deadly chemical payload detonated, killing and incapacitating scores of bystanders.

At the recent annual Herzliya Conference, military officials from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and on down, spoke frankly about the myriad of ballistic threat Israel was facing.

IDF Intelligence Directorate chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi put a shocking cumulative number to the threat.

Israel’s enemies—from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Hamas in Gaza, to Syria, Iran and others—have amassed 200,000 missiles, rockets, and mortars, ready for use in any potential conflict.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish ‘Scandal’ Star Says He Remains True to Religious Ritual, Despite Scheduling, Dietary Conflicts

    Jewish ‘Scandal’ Star Says He Remains True to Religious Ritual, Despite Scheduling, Dietary Conflicts

    A star of the hit TV show “Scandal” told the community website Quora.com that, throughout his acting career, he has remained faithful to his Judaism, even when it has caused him to forfeit gigs. Joshua Malina, who plays the character of David Rosen on the ABC political-thriller series, reminisced about his early days in Hollywood, when he had no agent and could only go to open-call auditions. At one of these — a try-out for a commercial — he said he waited on a line that was “maybe a city […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Huffington Post Accused of ‘Jew-Hatred’ After Tweeting ‘Offensive’ Joke About Comedian at Video Music Awards

    Huffington Post Accused of ‘Jew-Hatred’ After Tweeting ‘Offensive’ Joke About Comedian at Video Music Awards

    The Huffington Post is facing backlash after joking about a Jewish comedian’s  appearance at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Sunday night. Josh “The Fat Jew” Ostrovsky took part in Nick Jonas’ performance of his song “Bacon,” staged in a New York diner — in a cameo role as a waiter throwing a handful of bacon in the air. Commenting on the show, the Huffington Post tweeted, “not thrilled at the fat jew [he] wasted all that perfectly good bacon!!!!!!” The message angered many Twitter users, who thought the joke […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Fans Mob, Dance With Basketball Player Amar’e Stoudemire at First Jerusalem Team Practice (VIDEO)

    Israeli Fans Mob, Dance With Basketball Player Amar’e Stoudemire at First Jerusalem Team Practice (VIDEO)

    Israeli basketball fans mobbed Hapoel Jerusalem’s newest player, American pro Amar’e Stoudemire, dancing around with him during a practice open to the public. On Friday, the team posted a video on Twitter of the happy romp with fans jumping around Stoudemire, while chanting in Hebrew. Unfamiliar with the lyrics, Stoudemire pumps his fist in the air. The basketball player, who has Jewish roots on his mother’s side, also waved a flag emblazoned with Hapoel Jerusalem’s logo. The former New York Knicks forward retired from the NBA earlier […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Playboy Columnist Calls Israel’s ‘Burning Man’ Festival ‘Ultimate Revenge on Hitler’

    Playboy Columnist Calls Israel’s ‘Burning Man’ Festival ‘Ultimate Revenge on Hitler’

    The Israeli version of the famed American Burning Man music festival is the “ultimate revenge on Hitler,” according to a column in Playboy magazine on Thursday. In his column, Jeff Weiss also took note of the fact that Midburn — a five-day bacchanal in the Negev Desert, self-described as an event celebrating “a communal life style, creativity, art and radical self-expression” — began on June 8, the day of the Sarona Market terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, which left four people dead. Weiss asked rhetorically, “What could needle the mustached […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Author of New Book on Connection Between Jews, Punk Rock Describes Bands Flinging Gefilte Fish, Bagels at Audience (INTERVIEW)

    Author of New Book on Connection Between Jews, Punk Rock Describes Bands Flinging Gefilte Fish, Bagels at Audience (INTERVIEW)

    Some punk rockers integrate their Jewish identity into their music through food, the author of a new book on the topic told The Algemeiner on Wednesday. Michael Croland, author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, described the way different musicians express this connection. “One band is known for throwing gefilte fish in the mosh pit, and people at its concert slide around on it while dancing,” he recounted. “Another used to drink Manischewitz [sweet kosher] wine out of a shofar [the ram […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Scottish Soccer Club Manager Hails ‘Fantastic’ Jewish-State Visit After Victory Over Israeli Team (VIDEO)

    Scottish Soccer Club Manager Hails ‘Fantastic’ Jewish-State Visit After Victory Over Israeli Team (VIDEO)

    The manager of Scotland’s Celtic soccer club lauded Israel, after his team won a match against the Jewish state’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday night. Brendan Rodgers said at a post-match press conference: On behalf of the players, the people of Celtic and Scotland, Israel’s been fantastic for us. We came out here on Sunday, [and from] the hotel, the staff, we’ve been very, very warmly received. The atmosphere at the game was amazing and, obviously, one team has to lose, but you have a wonderful team here, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    For the second time, Israel will host the Jaffa Jazz Festival, according to Broadwayworld.com. The festival will unite 43 Israeli musicians and eight international artists for a three-day event. The program will include a special performance by an ensemble of top jazz students studying at Belgium’s Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, the Belgrade Music Academy in Serbia, Israel’s Rimon School of Music and the jazz program of the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. There will also be a jazz show for children led by Israeli saxophonist […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    JNS.org – As a young boy growing up in Ashdod, Israel, Alon Day got his first go-kart at age 9. By 15, he was racing them. Less than a decade later, Day has become the first Israeli professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit. He made history by competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 13. “Driving a race car is not like any other sport,” Day told JNS.org. “You are actually almost flying […]

    Read more →