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Home World A glance inside Israel's 'Fortress of Zion' command underneath Tel Aviv

A glance inside Israel’s ‘Fortress of Zion’ command underneath Tel Aviv

Written by Ronen Bergman

Friday was a bit earlier than midnight, and Israel’s Supreme Command Post was speeding to hold out as many assaults as attainable within the closing hours, earlier than the ceasefire with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was to take impact at 2 pm.

On a wall lined with big screens, a three-dimensional diagram of a tall constructing, one in all whose residences is marked in pink, popped up. On one other display, a reside video from the air circled above a constructing in Gaza that appeared just like the one within the diagram.

The room is the nerve heart of a bunker often known as the “Fortress of Zion”, a brand new Israeli military command posts underground deep under its headquarters within the heart of Tel Aviv. It is designed to regulate the sort of high-tech aerial warfare that has suppressed floor assaults fought by tanks and infantry battalions.

The newest battle with the Palestinians was the primary time the huge facility was used in the course of the warfare. It was additionally the primary time the navy allowed overseas journalists inside one of many nation’s most fortified and secret installations – an try and exhibit Israel’s navy and technical prowess, however to counter criticism over civilian casualties Too.

From the bunker, the military supervised 1000’s of assaults on the Gaza Strip, most of them by air, but additionally by sea and land. The Israelis say they’ve induced extreme injury to Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Officers contained in the Israeli Army underground command bunker in Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday, May 20, 2021. The partitions within the navy command heart embody demonstrations devoted to every of Israel’s wars. (Dan Balilty / The New York Times)

Those assaults additionally had a big impact on civilians. Palestinian officers say 66 of the 248 Palestinians killed had been youngsters. That toll introduced a global outrage and strain on Israel from its shut ally, the United States, to finish hostilities. The Israeli assault has induced widespread destruction of buildings and different infrastructure within the already deteriorating Gaza Strip, deepening the long-running humanitarian disaster.

The ceasefire continued till Saturday afternoon as Egyptian diplomats tried to mediate a long-term settlement between Israel and Hamas. There had been just a few protests towards the Israeli occupation and the warfare in Gaza, lowering the potential of a navy flare-up.

The first noticeable factor upon getting into the bunker is silence. None of the drama and tragedy of the warfare is obvious, and the individuals seem alert, centered and calm.

Command posts are designed primarily based on intelligence and for operations to be carried out by air or by small teams of particular forces. It compiles info from completely different businesses right into a database and interprets it into operational phrases.

It is a spot the place persons are measured by the variety of accepted targets – the navy can assault on warehouses, tunnels, or weapons. When a senior officer approves one, it’s added to the “target book”, which is reviewed as soon as a month by the Chief of Staff.

Over the previous 20 years, “targets” have been more and more individuals – resembling Hamas senior figures.

The military is nicely conscious of the criticism of its technique and the killing of harmless individuals, which has been condemned inside and out of doors the nation.

A senior official, pointing to detailed aerial pictures of an operation geared toward demonstrating that Israel had tried to scale back civilian deaths, was canceled as a result of it aimed on the Hamas facility close to Gaza Hospital was. He mentioned that many others had been additionally canceled in the identical method as a consequence of concern over civilian casualties.

The head of the Intelligence Division’s Target Branch, recognized as Lieutenant Colonel S. As the navy didn’t permit intelligence officers to be named within the information media, mentioned they didn’t suppose the troopers had been “targets” People had been lowered to chilly hearts.

However, one other commander working within the bunker mentioned, “You cannot kill anyone without killing anyone.”

Major General Nitzan Elon, former director of operations for the Israeli military, mentioned he understands that distance from the battlefield and coping with individuals as “targets” can result in indifference to human life.

“This is part of the commander’s challenge,” he mentioned, to verify the operation is efficient and “to know that there are humans at the other end.”

Israel recurrently accuses Hamas of hiding its services and weapons inside or close to civilian buildings, successfully utilizing civilians as human shields.

During common hours, 300 to 400 troopers work there around the clock. When Israel determined to launch its air raid on Gaza, 1000’s joined the bunker from the navy headquarters above floor. Members of intelligence businesses resembling Mossad and Shin Bet, Israel’s home intelligence company, and the Foreign Ministry and police representatives had been additionally current.

For 10 days he commanded the operation from the bunker. Most of them barely went.

Inside the nerve heart, about 70 individuals had been positioned at completely different ranges so that everybody may see the curtains on the wall. Most had been in navy uniform and had been underneath 25, and people who had been out of uniform had been largely older.

They sat at tables with computer systems, landline telephones or extra obscure communication gadgets. Some of his keyboards fed knowledge into the wall display – detailed descriptions of the assaults carried out and the injury carried out to Hamas.

Israel estimates that it destroyed 15% to twenty% of Hamas’s rocket arsenal and a few weapons manufacturing services. It claims to have killed about 200 Hamas operatives and has eradicated 30% of the tunnels underneath Gaza used to shelter terrorists, housing command methods, and weapons.

The nerve heart additionally had a map with areas of floor forces and navy plane all through the Middle East.

In the hours instantly previous the ceasefire, it was clear that Israel was desperate to strike a strong closing blow to Hamas. The launch of a screen-tracked rocket from Gaza and a attainable hit on Kibbutz in southern Israel.

At 2 pm, the commander echoed the command of the Chief of Staff to cease the hostilities. But no one was going residence. The publish persists on a warning of warfare till Israel determines {that a} delicate ceasefire will go on.

The “Fortress of Zion” took 10 years to design and construct. Dug deep into the earth, it is protected against numerous sorts of threats, together with nuclear assaults. It has sufficient vitality, meals and water to operate, though its occupants might not attain the bottom degree for lengthy.

It is an extension of an outdated command publish, nicknamed “the pit”, which was expanded a number of instances, however was thought of too small and gloomy and had electrical and sanitation issues.

More vital, the present director of operations of the military, Major General Aharon Haliwa, mentioned, “Over the years, the needs of the Israel Defense Forces have changed.”

Decades of large land wars gave strategy to extra frequent however smaller operations – often known as “wars between wars”. And that change meant relying extra on expertise and pool intelligence on a digital community, Haliwa mentioned.

Jerusalem, by way of bunker expertise, is related to a different underground command publish for Israel’s political leaders close to the Air Force’s underground headquarters and Shin Bet’s command heart.

The advanced features a fitness center, a synagogue, a kitchen and eating room, and a bed room for friends with a line of clocks from completely different components of the world – amongst them Tehran, Iran. There can also be a lounge with meals and non-alcoholic drinks – the one place the place troopers can use their cellphones.

One ground is occupied by the military excessive command, together with a personal bed room for the chief of workers with easy furnishings all through the bunker.

Various navy and intelligence departments feed the nerve heart with info and a consultant is bodily current. The mixed operation permits a lot of assaults in a virtually steady stream.

Some efforts had been made to provide the windowless bunker a pleasing environment, embellished with sightseeing pictures within the nation and a well-known quote from Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion, which reads, “In the hands of this army, security The security of the people and the motherland will now be entrusted. “

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With inputs from TheIndianEXPRESS

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