Throughout the nearly two decades since the disengagement from Gaza, Israel has found itself embroiled in a protracted violent struggle against Hamas (which is supported by another terrorist organization based in the Gaza Strip — Palestinians Islamic Jihad).
Hamas has consistently focused its efforts on terrorizing Israeli civilians. For those living near the Gaza Strip in the area known as the “Gaza Envelope,” life has been unbearable for many years. Israel always responded to Hamas’ terror attacks on those communities with limited force, without ever achieving a decisive resolution.
Over the years, there have been 16 military operations or rounds of conflict in Gaza, averaging about one per year. In each case, the technological capabilities employed by the IDF became more advanced and sophisticated.
Iron Dome, an advanced short-range missile defense system developed in Israel, was put into operation in 2011 and has been highly successful at intercepting Hamas’ rockets. In 2021, the construction of a sophisticated technological barrier was completed that stretched approximately 65 kilometers along the entire length of the Gaza Strip. Israel invested three years and 3.5 billion shekels in this barrier, which was one of the most complex and advanced engineering projects ever conducted in the country. It involved a complex underground barrier with advanced sensing systems, an above-ground technological barrier with surveillance technologies, remote-controlled weapons systems integrated into an advanced detection system, maximum coverage cameras for the area, and command-and-control war rooms.
Yet on the morning of October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a massive, highly successful murderous attack on the southern IDF army bases and settlements bordering the Gaza Strip.
Using basic means of communication, such as handwritten messages and person-to-person oral contact, Hamas leadership managed to handle the entire operation’s communication channels and avoid early detection by Israel. By using simple measures, they successfully disrupted the advanced technological systems responsible for on-site detection and prevention, followed by partial interference with the IDF’s communication systems. These successes led to a mass infiltration by a large number of terrorists into the settlements and military bases, resulting in an unprecedented number of dead, injured, and hostages taken, including both civilians and IDF personnel.
The perception that technology alone can lead to military dominance reached its peak in the early 1990s with the emergence of the “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) concept. This idea posits that military superiority relies on advanced technological solutions to address a wide range of threats and scenarios. It took root in American defense circles and influenced the strategies of several Western armies, including Israel’s.
From its inception, Israel has emphasized the acquisition of technological superiority as a means of countering numerical inferiority. Over the years, this strategy has become a cornerstone of Israel’s identity as a technologically advanced nation, earning it the nickname “Start-Up Nation.” It significantly affected Israel’s national security perception and its military. This perception is well reflected in the country’s innovative defense industry and the high number of Israeli technology start-ups in the defense sector.
One of the ultimate goals of advanced technological defense systems is to provide a real-time, comprehensive operational picture of the battlefield at any given moment. Efforts to achieve this goal involve the development of means that can “see” through walls or underground, advanced sensing systems capable of providing continuous battlefield coverage around the clock, improved data compression techniques, and more efficient transmission methods for large volumes of data. Additionally, it includes the utilization of artificial intelligence to assist in rapid decision-making, based on the large volume of data collected.
However, no matter how advanced technology becomes, it is highly unlikely to completely eliminate the “fog of war.” Moreover, the increasing reliance of advanced armies on technological systems creates a certain vulnerability. Alongside the advancement of information technology in recent decades, more significant points of weakness have become apparent. The most advanced tracking systems can be countered by simple measures, such as drones and explosive devices. Highly advanced sensors have limited capability to provide information about what is happening in underground bunkers and tunnels. Urban areas pose particular challenges as they contain large numbers of people and structures that all represent potential targets for tracking. In addition, there is the significant problem of the difficulty in distinguishing between non-combatants and adversaries.
A successful attack on Israel’s military information and communication networks can blind and silence its forces for significant periods, as indeed happened on October 7. The events of that day were the result of those limitations and serve as proof that even a modern military, armed with state-of-the-art equipment and technology, can be caught completely off-guard.
The conclusion of World War II heralded a change in the landscape of violent conflict worldwide. This change is reflected in the ascendance of asymmetrical conflict involving non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations, much like the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Asymmetrical conflicts are characterized by a growing involvement of the civilian population and a blurring of distinctions between the frontlines and the home front. These conflicts are often limited in scope, and traditional notions of victory in war or total defeat of the enemy are no longer valid.
One of the major components of asymmetric conflict is access to military technology. The more economically developed a country, the more advanced its military technology. This reality is clearly seen in the balance of military power between Israel and Hamas. By directing attacks against non-combatant civilians, the side in the conflict that holds the technological disadvantage — Hamas — aims to cancel out the asymmetry. As Israel holds such a clear technological advantage, Hamas cannot compete in a technological arms race, and it does not try. Instead, it resorts to simple and less advanced means that make it much more challenging for Israel to use its technological advantage.
An excellent example is Hamas’ use of incendiary balloons and kites, which it started launching towards Israel in April 2018 and which caused severe fires in the communities near the Gaza Strip. These simple means of warfare frightened residents and stirred public anger towards the IDF, which struggled to cope with them. As part of this trend, Hamas also began using cheap, readily available civilian drones with a wide range of applications, including military purposes such as intelligence-gathering and the carrying of explosive charges. Hamas has used drones like the DJI Matrice 600, which is capable of carrying a payload up to six kilograms and which can reach a maximum speed of about 65 km/h.
The primary battlefield on which the State of Israel combats terrorist organizations such as Hamas is an extremely dense and populated urban area, rife with enemy units that constantly try to hide from the IDF’s advanced sensor networks. They seek to inflict damage and quickly disappear into shelters or underground bunkers and tunnels.
Although technological supremacy is, and will probably remain, an important element of the IDF’s modus operandi, recent years’ experience teaches that the key to winning the war against terrorist organizations that employ the tactics discussed above will likely require full control of the territory. Though some degree of control can be achieved by means of technology, full control demands a substantial, sometimes massive, presence of “boots on the ground” — as the United States learned in its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even a technologically advanced military force will always remain vulnerable when facing such warfare, and it is unlikely that a miraculous technology will emerge to change that fundamental reality. Over-reliance on technology in conflicts of this nature can, in certain circumstances, act as a dangerous hindrance to achieving the desired outcome, as seen in the events of October 7, 2023.
Nir Reuven is a researcher at the BESA Center, an engineer, and a former officer in the Merkava development program (the main Israeli battle tank). He has held several management positions in the Israeli hi-tech industry and is an expert on technology. Currently he is co-manager of the Sapir College Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center and lectures at Bar-Ilan University. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.
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Israeli Hospital Earns Spot In Global Top 10
A hospital in central Israel was ranked in the top 10 of medical centers globally, in the new rankings out by Newsweek. Sheba Medical Center, located in Tel HaShomer in central Israel, was ranked the ninth best hospital in the world according to the US publication, its sixth year in a row.
“This is a distilled moment of Israeli pride. In this challenging period, Sheba has proven its professionalism and quality for the sixth time in a row. In many ways, this is a true expression of confidence in the entire Israeli healthcare system, for which I thank it from the bottom of my heart,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog following the news.
The Director General of the hospital, Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, added; “This achievement represents a resounding endorsement by our colleagues around the world. Sheba is working diligently to make Israel a better, healthier place and highlights our abilities to be both a center of medical excellence, as well as a beacon of co-existence, where Jewish and Arab medical personnel are working side by side 24/7 to save the lives of civilians and soldiers- Jews, Moslems and Christians alike.”
According to the hospital, which placed 11th in last year’s list, thousands of patients came through their doors in 2023 from every continent on earth, “for the treatment they could not receive in their home countries.”
Concluding on a thoughtful note, Sheba wrote: “Being ranked by Newsweek as the 9th best hospital in the world is a major achievement and an honor, yet our greatest reward lies in the lives we touch and the hope we instill. Together, with our dedicated team of medical professionals, we will continue to push the boundaries of medical advancement, ensuring that every patient receives the highest standard of care regardless of their background or where they live. Thank you for entrusting us with your health and allowing us to be a beacon of hope beyond boundaries.”
Per the rankings, four of the top five hospitals in the world are in the US, with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota at the top, followed by the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Also included in the list from Israel were the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, which ranked 64th in the world, and Rabin Medical Center’s Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, placing 158th globally.
Second Synagogue in Tunisia Attacked Since October 7
A mob set fire to the courtyard of a Tunisian synagogue in the city of Sfax on Sunday, the second such incident since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Nobody was injured in the fire — as there are no Jews left in Sfax — and authorities were able to put out the fire before it spread and destroyed the building, but reported showed significant damage to parts of the synagogue.
Israeli Historian Edy Cohen posted a video of the fire and explained that this is yet another example of antisemitism in Tunisia. He argued that “Israel through the Western countries must help Tunisian Jews.”
היום בבוקר נשרף בית כנסת עתיק בתוניסיה .
כתבתי עשרות פוסטים ומאמרים על האנטישמיות הגואה בתוניסיה אשר הגיעה לשיאה לפני פחות משנה כאשר נהרגו שני יהודים בפיגוע של קיצונים.
ישראל באמצעות מדינות המערב חייבת לעזור ליהודי תוניסה. pic.twitter.com/8Nw1jkjtiw
— אדי כהן Edy Cohen (@DREDYCOHEN) February 26, 2024
In 1948, there were an estimated 105,000 Jews in the country. However, by 1967, that number had declined to 20,000 after many fled to countries such as Israel and France, and today Tunisia is estimated to only have about 1,500 Jews.
This is not the first time an antisemitic mob set fire to a synagogue since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack.
On October 17, rioters set fire to the el-Hamma Synagogue, doing considerable damage. People also entered the synagogue and destroyed much of it. The synagogue is not an active place of worship, as there are no Jews left in the city.
Videos from the riot show crowds of people walking in, around, and on top of the synagogue — including at least one person waving a large Palestinian flag.
En Tunisie, la synagogue d’El Hamma a été détruite et incendiée hier soir par des centaines d’émeutiers, sans la moindre intervention policière. De nombreuses vidéos sur TikTok et Facebook. Et pas la moindre mention dans les médias nationaux https://t.co/U601jWVYWq pic.twitter.com/6F8uIZhoe3
— Joseph Hirsch (@josephhirsch5) October 18, 2023
The riot was precipitated by false reports that Israel had bombed Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, resulting in more than 500 casualties. News outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post uncritically reported the story.
Later, reports from those same outlets, along with human rights groups, suggested that a rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists malfunctioned and hit the parking lot of the hospital, killing dozens. U.S. and Israeli intelligence also conclude this is what took place.
But the damage of the initial reporting was done, whipping much of the Arab world into a frenzy, resulting in huge protests and — in this case — mob violence.
Just a year prior to the war, there was a deadly terrorist attack against the El Ghriba Synagogue on the island of Djerba, where the vast majority of Tunisia’s Jews live. The terrorist opened fire on security guards, killing two and injuring six. He also shot at Jews at the synagogue, two of whom were killed and another four were injured.
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From Ground Zero to the Gaza Border: US Medical Doctors Volunteer In Israel
On September 12, 2001, Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, a specialist in occupational medicine, was treating victims of terror at a site that would later become known as Ground Zero. More than 22 years later, Wilkenfeld found himself 6,000 miles away from Ground Zero treating terror victims in Israel.
Wilkenfeld took leave of his job for two weeks to volunteer with IL-USDocAID, an initiative that was established in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks on October 7, in which more than 1200 people were murdered and 253 were abducted to Gaza.
The project, a joint partnership between Israel’s Health Ministry and the Israel Economic Mission to the US, came in response to the sudden duress suffered by Israel’s health system from soaring casualties and the deployment of thousands of medical staff members, who serve in the IDF as reserve soldiers, to the frontlines.
Wilkenfeld said he was driven to come to Israel after seeing reports of mobilization efforts by Israeli civilians, some as early as October 7 itself. The idea of Israelis who were told to stay in their safe rooms rushing to help first responders wherever they could compelled him to action.
“In America, you feel helpless. What are you going to do? The ability to go here and even play a small role, just to give some advice medically – it’s a beautiful thing,” he told The Algemeiner.
Wilkenfeld took his family with him, who volunteered by cooking for soldiers while he was treating people.
In Israel, Wilkenfeld experienced many firsts. Despite 30 years of being active in the medical profession, including at the scenes of terror attacks, it was the first time he had ever encountered an ambulance station pockmarked by shrapnel and ambulances riddled with bullet holes.
Visiting physicians are given a choice to volunteer with paramedics in ambulances or work directly inside hospitals.
“When you have a doctor in the ambulance there’s more you can do as a paramedic,” Wilkenfeld said. “It also gives real strength for the paramedics to know that people want to come and give help.”
Wilkenfeld said the visit taught him not to pay too much attention to misinformation about Israel.
“I didn’t learn too much about medicine, but I learned a lot about Israel,” he said. “You read in the press that Israel is an apartheid state. But from a medical perspective it’s precisely the opposite.”
During his time in the country, Wilkenfeld said that all the patients he treated received the same medical care, from the “arab in east Jerusalem” to the “major rabbi from Har Nof,” an ultra-Orthodox suburb.
He noted, however, that working in Jerusalem was vastly different from the south, which suffered the brunt of the onslaught, where people are still in an acute state of shock.
“I’ve seen almost a thousand 9/11 responders, the responders in Sderot have the same look in their eyes,” he said of the southern Israeli city in which at least 50 civilians and 20 police officers were murdered. “They talk about the bodies in the ambulance station, about how to prioritize patients, that they haven’t slept in weeks.”
He also said that meeting with the families of hostages left him with a “terrible sadness,” rendering him speechless. Leaning on his medical expertise, however, eventually allowed Wilkenfeld to find his own voice to console them.
“It’s not possible to live in southern Israel and not have PTSD,” he said.
Wilkenfeld returned to his job in New York, where he serves as chief of occupational medicine and clinical assistant professor at NYU-Langone in Long Island, with a somber sense of the realities facing Israel.
He is already working to recruit more volunteers for the project if war should come to Israel again.
“If there is a next time, God forbid, now we can mobilize,” he said. “Now we know who to talk to, where things are.”
Parting ways with the Israeli medical personnel he worked alongside, Wilkenfeld was struck by their sacrifice amidst incomprehensible conditions.
“I leave and they have to live with this.” At the end of the day, he said, “they did much more for me than I did for them.”
To find out more about volunteering as a medic in Israel, click on the following link: IL-USDocAID: https://www.ilusdocaid.org/
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