JERUSALEM, Israel - A major challenge in fighting terrorism is staying ahead of the game. Israel’s success in doing so and protecting itself from attacks has helped make the country a worldwide leader in counter-terrorism. CBN News visited the Israel Defense Forces’ main training center to see how they do it.
“We’re looking at the threats, we’re looking at what’s going on around the borders of Israel and inside it and then together with that we need to make sure that we’re moving on. We’re not getting ready for yesterday; we’re getting ready for tomorrow,” an IDF officer who asked not to be named told CBN News.
The IDF started the Lotar Counter-Terror School in the 1970s, after a series of deadly terror attacks. Since then it has developed to include training programs such as tunnel warfare. Last year, they trained some 10,000 combat soldiers in counter-terror measures.
“In order for the IDF to be able to execute its mission, which is to defend Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty, we need quite a lot of special skills for our troops to have and master and this is the place where most of these skills are taught,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
During our visit to the “Lotar” Counter-Terror School, CBN News went behind the scenes to see how Special Forces work together in all threatening situations.
“We teach soldiers how to rappel down from helicopters, how to breach silently or what we call a loud breach, into buildings, hostage situations, to free hostages being taken by terrorists. We also teach underground warfare, in tunnel complexes, mock tunnels they have dug especially from the urban terrain, so that connects between the urban areas,” Conricus told CBN News.
Conricus explained how Tunnel Warfare is the latest chapter in the terror playbook.
“All of the terrorist organizations that we fight against, whether it is Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south, use the subterranean dimension, to (a) great extent. That is where they hide most of the time,” he said. “And that is usually how they try to infiltrate into Israel and to threaten Israeli civilians,
In June, CBN News reported on the discovery of a huge Hezbollah tunnel on Israel’s northern border and visited the site. Conricus said the soldiers who uncovered and captured it would have trained at Lotar.
“They have trained here and they have trained in similar centers up north and we have another one down south as well, which is focused on the types of tunnel(s) Hamas digs from Gaza into Israel,” Conricus said.
“So a tunnel is a tunnel, it’s underground but we’ve seen that Hamas tunnels differ from Hezbollah tunnels in terms of size and depth and structure, so we have to adjust to that and train our troops accordingly,” he added.
The other officer, whose identity we’ve protected, helped destroy tunnels along the Gaza border during Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas.
“Later on when we finished the campaign, I was posted here and taking the knowledge and taking the things that I felt out there in the field, the experience I had to integrate them together into what we teach here,” he explained.
Israel uses its intel and training to help the world take on terror.
“We’re sharing a lot about tunnel warfare, we’re dealing a lot with how to deal effectively in urban terrain, how to find the terrorists and limit that collateral damage to non-combatants, essentially the civilians that are in a combat area and finding terrorists and terrorists only,” Conricus said.
Last year, there were 23 international cooperation exercises.
“When other countries that we train with they come and look at us I think the things that they find special or extraordinary about the IDF would be we’re agile, we’re flexible, creative and we live with our backs to the wall so we have to always move on and be ready for the next threat,” the officer said.
Conricus said while Israel would have preferred not being the leader in this dangerous field, the reality is many terrorists want to kill Israelis. So, Israel will continue staying ahead of the game and helping the rest of the world along the way.