Reliable Security Information
To Reduce Risk of Kidnapped Soldiers, Israeli Military Uses Robots

The kidnapping of another one of its soldiers by Palestinian or Lebanese guerillas is a nightmare scenario for Israel's military. In addition to the demoralization and humiliation that are caused by such kidnappings, Israeli soldiers held by Hamas or Hezbollah are a terrible military and political burden. In 2006, Israel launched a hasty, badly planned military operation in Lebanon following the kidnapping of two reservists patrolling on the Israel-Lebanon border. And this past winter, one of the chief considerations that shaped the character of the IDF's operation against Hamas in Gaza was the fact that Hamas holds an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and the concern that Hamas will try (reportedly, it did try) to kidnap another soldier.

During the operation in Gaza, commanders warned their soldiers to avoid, at all costs, falling into the hands of Hamas. An IDF battalion commander was recorded telling Golani Brigade infantry soldiers to use their hand grenades, if needed, to kill themselves with their kidnappers, if they do fall in the hands of Hamas. "No soldier of Battalion 51 will be abducted, at any cost, under any circumstances, even if it means that he detonates his hand grenade with those who are trying to snatch him," the commander told the soldiers moments before they entered the Gaza Strip, according to a recording obtained in January by Israel's TV Channel 10.

The IDF's spokesman said that the battalion commander's briefing did not reflect IDF orders, but the Channel 10 report re-triggered the public debate in Israeli society over the morality of the IDF's Hannibal Protocol, a standing order intended to foil soldiers' kidnappings. According to the order, any vehicle carrying the kidnapped soldier must be fired upon, even at the cost of killing the soldier.

To reduce the risk of potential for kidnappings, the IDF has been seeking ways deny guerillas the element of surprise and to limit face-to-face engagement of IDF combatants with the enemy.

Recently, the IDF unveiled several new devices that it has been using to do just that. One is the Eyeball, a tennis-ball sized rubber ball equipped with a panoramic video camera and a microphone, which soldiers can toss into buildings or behind walls to avoid being ambushed. Another is the Eyedrive, a more sophisticated audiovisual monitoring device, which is mounted on a miniature remote-controlled all-terrain vehicle that can climb stairs and roll over. Both are manufactured by OEF, an Israeli company.

Most impressive, perhaps, is the larger, more sophisticated unmanned ground patrol vehicle, called the Genius, mainly for border patrol missions. The robot, developed jointly by Israel's two largest defense manufacturers, Elbit and the Israel Aerospace Industry, was reportedly intended to reduce the risk of cross-border kidnappings. It was publicly unveiled in a recent report by Israel's Channel 2 television news department.

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