THE "BUFFER ZONES" MYTH
Authors: Uri Kaplan, Kirill
Construction of the separator wall near Qalqilya
A few days ago, Israel has begun the construction of "buffer
zones" between Israel proper and the Palestinian territories,
approximately along the 1967 border line - "the green line".
Those zones are supposed to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian
infiltrators' attacks, including suicide bombers. According
to recent information, the width of those "buffer zones"
will be 4 km along the so-called "green line" (wherever
it is possible) and 10-15 km in the Jordan valley.
In the following article we will try to explain what are those
buffer zones and how effective they can be.
The first thought that comes to mind, when speaking of "buffer
zones" and "demarcation lines", is a fence. And
indeed, the fence is one of the most important elements of the
buffer zone, but not the only one.
The main components of the "buffer zone":
1. The fence.
Normally, the fence is made from metal, consisting of complex
system of tension sensors. The sensors react to any significant
disturbance of the fence, either an attempt to penetrate it
or to break the integrity of the system itself. When such an
attempt is detected, a signal is passed to the observation station
automatically. Fences can be built in several rows and include,
besides the sensors, electric current running through the fence
as well as several rows of barbed wire.
However, in several areas of the future "buffer zones",
apperently as a cost cutting measure, a concrete wall is being
constructed instead of the usual "gader maarehet"
- "system fence" as described above. This has some
advantages - obviously, the cost is lower, and it's much harder
to penetrate a wall made out of concrete blocks. However, there
is one serious drawback - unlike with the "system fence",
any successful penetration of the wall will not be immediately
detected by the sensors.
2. Observation systems
Miscellaneous means of surveillance of the area close to the
fence. First of all, there are night and day video cameras located
on pylons above the fence itself. The cameras broadcast to observation
station, where operators, who observe the barrier and the nearby
area, are located. Besides the video cameras, installation of
other sensors is also possible, including infrared cameras,
even radars. The key factor is cost, which limits placement
of the more sophisticated sensors.
To compensate for the lack of money, small aerostats and pilotless
drone aircraft are used by IDF. They enable observation of much
larger areas than cameras , which are tied to a particular spot.
Drone aircraft were widely used by the IDF in Lebanon since
the end of the 70s, and Israeli companies are among world leaders
in their development. On the other hand helium-filled blimps,
used by the army and the police, are made in United States.
Their diameter is 7 meters, and their cost is 80 thousand dollars.
They have been used extensively as well, along the border with
Lebanon and in Jerusalem.
An IDF surveillance blimp with a video camera floats above
the minaret of the Omar Mosque on Bethlehem's Manger Square,
during the seige of the Church of the Nativity.
3. The "Dead Zone"
An area near the fence is made into a "dead zone",
which is cleard of any plants, buildings or even rocks which
can serve as a cover for infiltrators. Often some part of this
area are mined with anti-infantry mines and noisemakers, including
wire-tripped mines. and control over natural features and buildings
that are located nearby. The width of this area must be from
200 meters to 2 kilometers but considering the layout of the
West Bank, in some regions (such as Qalqylia, Tul-Karem and
others) it will have to be significantly reduced. In case of
Jerusalem it would have to be eliminated altogether.
4. An "intrusion detection" strip
This is an integral part of any buffer zone. Specially trained
pathfinders - usually composed of Bedouins or soldiers of Ethiopian
origin - form a patrol team, which inspect the previously ploughed
up area for tracks or any other evidence of infiltration.
Soldiers who patrol along the dividing area and set ambushes,
before and behind the fence. Tanks and "Nagmashot"
APCs are used for detecting trespassers, because they are equipped
with long-range observation equipment (including night-sights).
Likewise, their weapons suite enables them to destroy the enemies
from a distance.
A conservative requirement is for a battalion of soldiers with
support of armor (at least one armored platoon, often two),
for a piece of the buffer zone of 20-25 kilometers length. The
operators who man the observation systems and maintenance personnel
come separately, and wouldn't count as part of this total.
So, the "buffer zone" is not just a fence, but a
complicated system of barriers, observation posts and patrols.
This is the main problem of "buffer zones" - there
is a need for huge investments and significant forces of army
and police to make them effective.
For fully functional "buffer zone" between Israel
and the West Bank of more than 200 kilometers of length there
will be a need for hundreds of millions of dollars, intensive
construction effort which will last at least a year (more probably
two or more); the amount of army forces and necessary personnel
will be equivalent to one and a half IDF division. This is a
big number for a force that fields roughly 4 divisions of active
As a result of all those efforts, will the desired
aim - security of all citizens of Israel - be achieved?
Definitely no. First, the security of Israelis who live on
the "territories" will most probably decrease, because
the troops that now guard the settlements and the roads of the
West Bank will probably be detached to patrol the buffer zones.
Second, during the current Intifada, Palestinians have prepared
and imported many weapons that are able to attack Israeli cities
beyond the dividing line. Those means consist of mortars, up
to and including 120mm, unguided rockets such as "Katyushas"
of 105mm and 122mm (such as those that were found by Israel
on board of "Santorini" and "Karin-A" ships),
and their own homegrown "el-Aksa/Kassam-1/2" missiles.
"Kassam-2" is a 120mm unguided rocket, with 4 to
6 kg of explosive payload and 6-8 kilometers range, with the
range being inversely proportional the weight of the. It is
stabilized in flight by fins welded to the casing. The engine
is ignited by an electric fuse, which can be triggered by a
timing mechanism. The missile is launched from rails mounted
on a bipod. The precision of such missile is not great, but
is enough to hit a population center.
The use of a timer is an ingenious invention, which prevents
effective counter-battery fire by IDF artillery. "Kassam"
missiles are manufactured at home conditions, in home workshops.
During the military action in Balata refugees-camp, Israeli
troops discovered a workshop for the "Kassam" manufacturing,
with 7 missiles in various stages of construction, including
one that was already prepared for launch. Shortly before the
raid, a Palestinian driving a truck with another 8 missiles
and 2 launchers was caught in the West Bank.
Launch of "Kassam-2" rocket, from a video released
by the Hamas.
At night between 3-rd and 4-th of March Palestinians launched
5 missiles to Israel from Tul-Karem. That time the missiles
fell on an open area, causing no injuries. However on the evening
of 5-th of March a missile fell for the first time in the neighborhood
of town of Sderot, and for the first time the harm was not only
material - as a result of the explosion a baby was wounded.
Aside from missile attacks on Israeli cities, Palestinian terrorists
will still be able to get into Israel, using ID cards of Eastern
Jerusalem inhabitants and cooperation of Israeli Arabs. Not
only that, but if Palestinian workers continue to receive Israeli
work-permits, they will have no problem penetrating the buffer
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