The IDF confirmed on Monday that it moved one of its five Iron Dome batteries—deployed successfully during its November Pillar of Defense offensive against Gaza rockets—to the vicinity of Haifa in the north. The army described the move as routine.
But the move comes while Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has renewed its warnings about the threat of Syrian chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands as a result of the civil war in Syria.
The IDF’s senior leadership is taking serious account of the changes occurring along the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, and the General Staff has decided to prepare for every eventuality, says a press release issued by the IDF Spokesperson’s office.
Specifically, the IDF leadership has decided to strengthen the fence along the Syrian border while at the same time upgrading intelligence-gathering capabilities in the area.
The security issues of the Syrian civil war from Israel’s point of view include not only the fear of an attack, whether chemical or conventional, as the fighting in the area south of Damascus intensify – it also includes concerns about the flight of between half a million and two million displaced Syrians, among them thousands of Palestinians, who might attempt to rush the border into Israel.
In recent weeks, soldiers of the Gaash Formation, which defends the area, have worked extensively on this project, to enhance the area’s general security.
“All these elements are prepared for developments on the Syrian border and as preparation for the ‘day after’. We are preventing the possibility of future terror activity,” Gaash Formation Engineering Officer Lt. Col. Shai Unger, who is responsible for the project, explained.
“This project contains within it a significant procedure for strengthening intelligence gathering, by stationing radar and state-of-the-art cameras throughout the Golan Heights sector. Additionally, a barrier has been placed along the line of the fence which will provide added security to the surrounding communities,” Lt. Col. Unger expanded.
Work on the fence, which began a month ago, is now at an advanced stage. The fence is five meters in height, surrounded by tall wire fencing and trenches. So far, forces have constructed tens of kilometers of the fence, up to the southern areas of the Golan Heights which are near the border.
The fence construction is carried out in a similar fashion to that of the Hourglass Project on the Egyptian border, which has proved its effectiveness recently in preventing illegal border crossings.
“In the beginning, we chose to invest our efforts in the areas close to civilian communities, but I believe in the future we will equip the entire Golan Heights with the same kind of barrier,” Lt. Col. Unger explained.
There has been an increase in the number of forces stationed on the Syrian border. Whereas in the past the area was guarded by reservists, those forces have recently been replaced by soldiers from the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion, who carry out activities in the sector and provide security for the building of the fence.
Additional forces taking part in the activity include field intelligence forces that gather quality intelligence on developments on the other side of the border; the Barak Battalion forces of the Golani Brigade, stationed on Mount Hermon; and combat engineering forces of the Mechanical Engineering Team that are assisting in the construction of the fence.