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Importance of what Israeli surveillance soldiers stated about the October 7 attack

By Bharat Dogra 

An important role in the Israeli security system is assigned to Israeli women surveillance soldiers who are on duty at the long fence with Gaza. They are called tatzpitaniyot. They use security cameras and sensors to monitor the area on and around the fence carefully to look for any signs of unusual activity on 24X7 basis.
Several of these surveillance soldiers were killed in the October 7 attack, while some were also taken hostage.
After the attack several of them have spoken to Israeli media, including TV and print media, such as Kan News, Channel 12, Haaretz and others. What they have stated is very important to understand what happened prior to October 7.
For about three months preceding the attack, these surveillance soldiers have generally stated, they had started noticing highly unusual activities near the fence, most particularly relating to training by Hamas or persons similar to them.
They would create a replica of the fence wall, then breach it, then make it again and breach it again.
One of the surveillance soldiers Yael Rotenberg reported concentrated activity at two stretches on the section of the fence she was monitoring. On October 7 the fence was breached at both these places (among others). This shows how important such sightings were for real intelligence. 
Another training activity related to preparing replicas of the observers who guarded the posts, and then attacking them. Observers were attacked in a similar way on October 7.
Replicas of tanks used by Israel were prepared and attacked or captured in the training. Holes were dug and explosives were put in them. Drones were being used and landing quite close to the fence.
One surveillance officer Amit Yerushalmi told Israeli media, “People went down to the fence and detonated an outrageous amount of explosives, the amount of explosives was crazy.”
She stated, “The training went from once a week to twice a week, from every day to several times a day.”
Another surveillance soldier Maya Desiatnik told something very similar—the training was first once a week, then once a day, then constantly. She stated her understanding then was that now it is only a matter of time before something big will happen.
These activities being observed by the women surveillance soldiers were being regularly sent to their seniors, which means that these dispatches were being regularly read by their seniors for several weeks almost on daily basis, with more activities or more intense activity being reported with the passage of time.   
In any country this would have led to a state of very high alert and all possible actions would have been taken to go to the depth of what exactly is the implication of all this training activity near the border fence. All possible steps would have been taken to eliminate or minimize any threat posed by such activities. Steps would also have been taken to improve the security for the women surveillance soldiers themselves. While such action would be expected in any country, this would be expected even more in Israel which is known to have a very strong security and intelligence force which is reputed for its high levels of alertness and efficiency. What is more this alertness would have increased further in view of the warning of increased militant training activity coming so close to the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war (6 October 2023).
However from all available evidence, all the high alert dispatches sent by the women surveillance officers were almost entirely ignored as far as taking action on them to strengthen security is concerned. In fact one of the women surveillance soldiers in media reports has been quoted as saying while describing the situation on the day of the attack—half of the force was home for Sukkot (a religious event). This indicates that security was exceedingly weak on the day of the attack, much below what is available in normal times, instead of security being strengthened.
It is important to give careful consideration to these statements as these can help to improve the understanding of what was happening prior to October 7 and also what happened on October 7. These surveillance soldiers are after all in government service and may not be able to speak so freely later, although immediately after the tragedy in their distress they have spoken to the media.
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include “Planet in Peril”, “Protecting Earth for Children” and “A Day in 2071” 



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