Between 2011 and 2015, Israel faced 28 successful IED attacks, according to AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor, based on English-language media sources. These attacks caused 119 deaths and injuries, of which 87% (104) were civilians. It is also worth noting that very few deaths were caused by these IEDs – only 11 were recorded – which suggests that the IEDs are not as lethal or sophisticated as those seen elsewhere in the Middle East. In the first half of 2016, there were 5 IED attacks that caused death or injury. 31 civilians were killed or injured in these attacks – two were reported as killed, 29 injured.
The motivations of the perpetrators of such attacks in Israel are more various compared to other Middle Eastern states due to Israel’s political history. Perpetrators of extremism in Israel act for a range of reasons, including “religious” motivations, anti-Western motivations, as well as nationalist and political motivations. Perpetrators include Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
As Israel also has borders with countries highly impacted by IEDs and would be considered a significant target to most extremist groups operating in these countries, Israel faces a big threat from IED attacks.
The Combat Engineering Corps was established in 1947. It is considered crucial in the battlefield, because it is the only Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) force trained to break through obstacles such as mine fields, tunnels, and dirt mounds. Engineering soldiers are specially trained to deal with a variety of challenges including using mines, as well as the neutralisation of explosives and NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) weapons. One of the main purposes of the Corps is to counter explosives on missions, overcoming enemy traps and obstacles, enabling the IDF to complete its missions.
Sayeret Yahalom (special operation engineering unit) is the Engineering Corps’ special forces unit and one of the most elite units in the IDF. The purpose of the unit is maneuvering operations involving dangerous weaponry, engineering reconnaissance, and dealing with tunnel threats and weapons hideouts in enemy territory. For this, they use technologically advanced equipment. The unit primarily conducts special engineering missions, such as those including:
- Commando and Counter-Terrorism missions.
- Accurate demolitions and planting of pinpoint explosives.
- Defusing bombs, landmines and ERW (Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).
- Maritime sabotage and obstacles breaching.
- Searching and destroying smuggling tunnels.
- Developing advanced methods and tools for demolitions and EOD.
- Teaching and training engineering corps soldiers and other Special Units in demolitions and EOD.
Saveret Yahalom personnel are highly trained in EOD and C-IED methods and are involved in training other units of the IDF in these areas. They are said to be in command of many of the most modern and advanced tools for this work, such as robots and vehicles including the IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozer.
Within the Israeli Police, there is a specific Bomb Disposal Division. This consists of Israel’s top bomb disposal specialists. During training, the elite specialists practice with live agents and chemicals. The personnel within the Police Bomb Disposal Division will deal with both terrorist and criminal activities. Daily tasks can include neutralising suspected car bombs or unattended objects suspected of containing bombs, to removing threats from unused weaponry. The police are said to encounter these tasks approximately 80,000 times a year.
The training the specialists receive lasts for about a year. In this time, they learn to defuse bombs, use specialist equipment, handle explosives as well as various weapons. They will know how to use the robots involved in the work as well as the more common place equipment. The Israeli Police also manages Israel’s Bomb Data Center and is part of the International Bomb Data Center Working Group.
Border security has seen fences along borders that pose insecurity – this has seen border fences and barriers along most borders. Israel have barriers in place along the West Bank, between Israel and a Gaza, between Israel and Egypt, and a new one – begun in January 2016 – along Jordan. This allows greater security as designated checkpoints can better monitor the flow of people across borders and boundaries. Cameras and other security technology have been used to increase the effectiveness of these boundaries, and border personnel monitor perimeters and checkpoints. Though these have improved security, some have been widely condemned for infringing upon the human rights of others, specifically Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in 2016 a proposal to surround Israel completely with security fences.
The Customs Authority ensures the legality of imports and exports into and out of Israel – and commercial import to the Palestinian Authority. These efforts are to prohibit illegal materials passing between border, including explosive materials. The customs administration has successfully intercepted many illegal materials, such as explosives. Often these are disguised as other materials. Some items intercepted have included those that were meant for terrorist organisations.
The Shin Bet, similarly to the FBI, is in charge of internal security intelligence. Its three main wings target: Arab-related counterterrorism threats in Israel, the West bank and Gaza, non-Arab security issues, and protecting high-value individuals and location. The Shin Bet carries out investigations into suspected terrorist activities such as the smuggling of explosives and terrorism recruitment. This work also involves interrogating terrorist suspects and providing intelligence for counterterrorism operations in the West Bank and Gaza. They have been responsible for foiling terrorist attacks (such as suicide bombings by Hamas) uncovering terrorist cells, and intercepting weapons and explosive materials. Though the Shin Bet is a security agency, it is not part of the Ministry of Defence. Instead, the Chief of the Shin Bet reports directly to the Prime Minister of Israel.
Mossad is the Israeli security agency responsible for intelligence gathering outside of Israel. Like the Shin Bet, Mossad report directly to the Prime Minister of Israel, rather than the MoD. They often cooperate with the IDF and with the security forces of other states, as well as the Shin Bet, particularly as the terrorist threat to Israel from neighbouring countries is high. Mossad’s involvement with the intelligence units of other states has led to significant breakthroughs in cooperation, prompting peace agreements with countries previously hostile to Israel, such as with Jordan and Egypt – considerably increasing Israeli security.
Israeli National Mine Action Authority
The Israeli National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) was established in 2011, and oversees mine clearing projects inside Israel. The INMAA contracts commercial companies to conduct clearance and quality assurance. The contractors used in 2014 were: Eitan Lidor Projects and the Israeli Mine Action Group (IMAG). These contracted clearance operations took place alongside those of the IDF, who conduct their own demining, unregulated by the INMAA.
Israel does not use surveys for land release, instead it is always released through clearance – even low-risk areas will see at least one clearance operation. Between 2011 and 2014, INMAA cleared and released over 5.1km2 of land. Israel are said to have well over 100km2 of land to clear, so at the rate they work, clearance will take a long time especially as Israel have also laid new mines in strategic areas, such as near the Syrian border. The annual mine clearance budget is said to be almost $8million, although there are often delays in receiving the funds which often sees work delayed.
They also operate a “minefield information bank” that is accessible to the public, where they can query demining plans and programmes. They will continue to manage projects in the West Bank, funded by governments of the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.
Israel have the most up-to-date and advanced equipment. Some of the most notable pieces of C-IED equipment in use by Israel are the Counter IED and Mine Suite (CIMS) and the IDF Caterpillar D9.
In 2014, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) unveiled a multi-sensor system placed on the front of armoured vehicles to detect IEDs. The CIMS is made up of an above-surface detection system, advanced ground penetrating radar and a powerful metal detector. It can detect camouflaged explosives, partially exposed explosives and underground explosives. It allows safer and quicker ground manoeuvres.
The IDF also have D9 bulldozers that are impervious to mines and IEDs. They can be used in counterterror operations, to clear landmines, detonating IEDs and explosives, and handling booby traps. However, they are mostly used by Israel in the demolishment of Palestinian houses. Israel modified the bulldozer, adding greater protection to the operator.
One of Israel’s key partners in security is the US, and this remains the case in regard to counterterrorism and C-IED. They are often in dialogue on security issues and terrorism threats in the region. They collaborate in regional efforts and Israel is seen by the US an important counterterrorism ally in the Middle East.
Turkey and Israel, after years of disagreement, came to terms of agreement that would see them cooperate against terrorism. Israel agreed to: pay compensation for the Turkish civilians killed in the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010, allow Turkey to send humanitarian supplies to Gaza, and allow Turkey to support building projects in Gaza. In return, Turkey has agreed to: end the lawsuits against those involved in the raid, stop Hamas from launching or financing terrorist operations from Turkish territory, and negotiate with Hamas on Israel’s behalf to secure the return of two Israel civilians and the bodies of two soldiers being held in Gaza. This could be an important step, despite the challenges on Turkey’s side, to greater counterterrorism cooperation, especially concerning Syria.
Israel is engaged in regional initiatives in Africa to prevent terrorism. Heads of state from Israel, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zambia, South Sudan and Tanzania, convened in July 2016 to enhance their cooperative efforts to defeat terrorism. The other heads of state looked particularly to Israel for assistance tackling cyber terrorism. Israel saw the Summit as an opportunity to share Israel’s experience with counterterrorism and security with those concerned in Africa.
Israel houses a Bomb Data Center operated by the Israeli Police, and Israel is part of the International Bomb Data Center Working Group (IBDCWG). The IBDCWG is a collaborative body, comprised of bomb data centers and recognized government agencies that are focused on the efficient and effective sharing of technical intelligence on explosives, as well as other information related to the unlawful use of explosives. The Working Group was formed in 2005 by bomb data centres from 12 countries who saw the need for such information sharing in C-IED and counter-terrorism work. The group now has more than 40 member nations and an additional 12 countries participating with observer status.
Each year the IBDCWG holds a conference. These include presentations from member nations regarding major incidents, emerging trends, and other topics of interest, as well as demonstration of new tools and techniques and focused discussions on best practices to employ in future attacks using explosives. The IBDCWG also facilitates information sharing through the IBDCWG Portal, where not only can information be posted but members can also engage in encrypted live chat.
The FATF granted Israel observer status in 2016, in a decision that is said to reflect the importance of Israel’s contribution to fighting the financing of terrorism. Joining the FATF allows Israel to participate in shaping global policy on the financing of terrorism. However, if Israel wishes to become a full member it must address shortcomings such as, improving identification requirements at financial institutions and expanding regulation to additional sectors. Funding of Hamas and Hamas operatives remains a concern to Israel, particularly through charitable organisations.
Whilst Israel is not part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, it provides intelligence that can greatly assist in the counter ISIL operations
NGO and private company support
Eitan Lidor is a private Israeli firm, operated under the leadership of Eitan Lidor, a former IDF combat engineering chief officer, who also served as a UN mine action consultant and carried out demining projects across the globe. Eitan Lidor is a registered UNOPS, IMoD and INMAA supplier. They carry out demining and EOD work, with employees who are former IDF combat engineers and bomb squad reserves.
They use the most up-to-date equipment, such as robots and mechanical demining systems, alongside mine detection dogs and standard mine detectors. They have a special relationship with demining technology providers DOK-ING and MineLab. Alongside the standard EOD work, which includes IEDD projects, they also provide training and capacity building for law enforcement agencies.
Israeli Mine Action Group
The Israeli Mine Action Group (IMAG) has been contracted by the INMAA to undertake demining projects. They only carry out projects in Israel and operate under INMAA’s command. This has included land clearance work in the south, around Sapir. In 2013, they cleared just over 1km2. In 2014 IMAG carried out clearance in the north, around Snir.
To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Did you find this story interesting? Please support AOAV's work and donate.