IDF to deploy observation balloons along Egyptian border

Success in preventing rocket fire from Gaza prompts army to use ‘eyes in the sky’ to stop attacks from Sinai

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of a military observation balloon. (photo credit: CC BY isafmedia, Flickr)
Illustrative photo of a military observation balloon. (photo credit: CC BY isafmedia, Flickr)

The army has decided to deploy highly sophisticated observation balloons to gather intelligence of impending missile attacks and other threats along Israel’s increasingly problematic, porous border with Egypt.

The IDF’s observation balloon crews proved their efficiency at long-range, real-time reconnaissance in last week’s flare-up of violence along the Gaza border. The balloons, equipped with state-of-the-art electronic surveillance technology, giving IDF intelligence 360 degrees of high-definition visibility for up to eight kilometers (five miles), are also armed with sensors that gather meteorological data.

“In the last week, our [balloon] networks cooperated to no small degree with IDF artillery and the air force to destroy no small number of launchers and terrorist cells,” Captain Shahar Golbary, commander of the Gaza Division’s balloon unit, said.

The balloons give IDF intelligence an accurate bird’s eye view of the battlefield, allowing speedy response to incoming threats. “When the terrain is flat the balloon can alert us long before the forces arrive at a specific point,” Golbary noted.

Earlier this week, an Israeli military official told the Times of Israel that terrorist cells in Gaza now have mere moments before they are spotted and targeted by Israeli missiles, thanks to a streamlined intelligence network and more readily available firepower. The surveillance balloons deployed at bases surrounding the Gaza Strip are the IDF intelligence gatherers’ front line.

Because of their success on the Gaza border, the IDF has now decided to station observer balloons on the increasingly problematic Egyptian frontier, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday..

Last week an Israeli civilian was killed in a cross-border attack by terrorists who penetrated the Sinai border. Two days earlier, two Grad rockets were fired into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula.

Since the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last year, the peninsula has become a lawless hotbed for Islamist groups and arms smugglers.

Most Popular
read more: