IDF human intelligence unit earns commendation for thwarting terrorists in north
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IDF human intelligence unit earns commendation for thwarting terrorists in north

Unit 504, which employs agents beyond Israel’s borders, is said to have ‘established a significant and dominant capability’ that prevented attacks

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The commander of Unit 504 receives an official commendation in April 2019. For security reasons, the commander's identity is classified. (Israel Defense Forces)
The commander of Unit 504 receives an official commendation in April 2019. For security reasons, the commander's identity is classified. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli Military Intelligence’s Unit 504, which employs agents beyond Israel’s borders, received official commendation this week for its activities in the “northern arena” over the past five years, which the army said “prevented terror attacks and neutralized threats that endangered the State of Israel.”

The specific activities of the highly secretive unit in the northern arena — the army’s term for Lebanon and Syria — that earned it the citation were not released.

There are four levels of military citations. Unit 504 received the second highest, one presented by a major general, in this case the head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Tamir Hyman.

The soldiers and officers who make up Unit 504 operate agents in foreign countries and within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who provide intelligence that is analyzed within the Military Intelligence Directorate.

Military Intelligence chief Tamir Hyman speaks during a ceremony to present the human intelligence Unit 504 an official commendation in April 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“From 2013 to 2018, the unit received the mission of foiling terrorism and interfering with the entrenchment of terrorist figures in the northern arena. With determination and by spotting intelligence and operational opportunities, the unit established a significant and dominant capability,” the army said.

“This led to exceptional achievements in the area of operation… which contributed to the superiority of the Israel Defense Forces and to the security of the State of Israel,” the military added.

In his speech, Hyman praised the human intelligence unit for gathering “sources who could shed light on the situation taking place in the region and describe the complicated reality.”

The commander of Unit 504 receives an official commendation in April 2019. For security reasons, the commander’s identity is classified. (Israel Defense Forces)

Col. “Resh” — for security reasons he can only be identified by his rank and first Hebrew letter of his name — thanked Hyman for the award and vowed to continue Unit 504’s work.

“It is clear to me and to the other commanders of this unit that the command inherent in this citation is the continuation of our high-quality, creative and tricky intelligence efforts at the highest level in order to support the IDF and Military Intelligence complete its missions,” Resh said.

In recent years, Israel has been fighting a larger quiet war against Iran and its proxies in Syria in order to prevent them from establishing a permanent military base on Israel’s northern border.

Since late last year, the IDF has indicated that its efforts have been reasonably successful in driving back the pro-Iranian forces from the Syrian border.

In Lebanon, the Israeli military has also been working to counter the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group. In December, Israel launched “Operation Northern Shield,” an effort to locate and destroy attack tunnels dug by the group from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory. The IDF acknowledged destroying six of these underground passages before declaring the operation successfully completed.

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