Israel is again being forced to take the lead in developing counter-terrorism techniques. This time it's to protect itself from the growing number of terrorist threats from the sea. Three years ago, new tactics began to shut down the Palestinian suicide bomber operations on land. Since then, there have been increased attempts to move terrorists in via the sea. Israel has a 180 kilometer coastline, and forty kilometers of that is controlled by the Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli navy has stopped five weapons smuggling attempts since it turned control of Gaza over to the Palestinians last September. In the past, there have also been several attempts to land terrorists on Israeli beaches.
It is not believed that there have been any successful smuggling operations, because none of the high grade explosives or weapons, caught in the five failed attempts, have shown up. A new danger, the use of suicide boat attacks, has also been encountered. But no suicide attacks have succeeded, yet.
The Israelis have used a combination of planning, technology and speed to neutralize the seaborne terror threat. The Israeli planning largely concentrates on dealing with techniques the terrorists have used in the past, as well as looking at the situation and preparing for what the terrorists might do in the future. It's this angle that accounts for seemingly strange measures the Israelis sometimes take. Naturally, the Israelis don't talk about these anticipated terrorist tactics, because sometimes, the terrorists don't think of what the Israelis have anticipated.
Technology has always been an Israeli strong point, and they've needed it now that they can no longer base radars and sensors inside Gaza. Instead, they have mounted an array of sensors on the 820 foot high smokestacks of a power plant just north of Gaza. This enables them to have radar and video coverage of the Gaza coast.
Then comes the speed. T hat sensor coverage is fed to a fleet of more than a dozen fast (60 kilometers or more an hour) patrol boats. The fleet is backed up by helicopter gunships and jets. Israeli commanders on duty have to be quick, because the terrorists have often used speedboats, launched from larger cargo ships offshore, or come up from Egypt, or south from Lebanon. Israel has established security zones off the Gaza coast, and patrol them constantly. This is done in an environment containing up to 600 Palestinian fishing boats. There are restrictions on how fast fishing boats can go, and where pleasure craft can be at all. So far, the terrorists have been prevented from exploiting this environment.
To deal with the growing number of suicide boat attempts, the Israelis developed a remote controlled speedboat, loaded with sensors, and a remote control 7.62mm machine-gun. It's not just boats they have to worry about, terrorists have used booby trapped life rafts, hoping to kill any Israeli sailors who come by looking to see if someone needs rescuing.
So far, the Israeli seaward counterterrorism efforts have been successful. But constant vigilance is required, because the enemy keeps on trying.