Female IDF Soldiers Blame ‘Sexism’ For Early Warning of Hamas Activity Being 'Ignored'
09:37 GMT 20.11.2023 (Updated: 10:23 GMT 20.11.2023)
Ever since Hamas triggered an escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine by breaching the Israeli border and abducting approximately 200 people on 7 October, the surprise attack has been blamed on everything from intelligence lapses to operational and logistical weaknesses of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Israel’s female surveillance soldiers at the border had warned of heightened Hamas activity before the 7 October attack
, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported
. However, their alert was allegedly ignored by the upper chain of command.
In what has been described as a blatant display of sexism, senior commanders refused to heed the warnings because they had come from women operating the surveillance cameras, sources were cited as saying.
The unit of soldiers in the Border Defense Corps who spend hours seated in front of surveillance camera screens monitoring any undue activity on the other side is comprised entirely of women. Known in Hebrew as tatzpitaniyot - derived from the word tatzpit, or look-out. These vigilant troops are often the first line of defense.
The unit operates along Israel’s borders, as well as throughout the West Bank. Also dubbed ‘the eyes of the State of Israel’, these soldiers gather information using cameras, sensors and maps, and are responsible for monitoring around 15-30 kilometers of land. As a result, they provide real-time intelligence information to their military colleagues out in the field all day, every day.
Hamas had been training for an attack for weeks, the tatzpitaniyot had purportedly warned. The aforementioned female surveillance soldiers reported "signs of activity" along the Gaza border.
“In the past two months, they started sending up drones every day, sometimes several times a day, right near the border, some 300 meters from the fence, and sometimes less than that,” one of the soldiers told Haaretz, clarifying that Hamas were believed to be training to “take over an observation post.”
“A month and a half before the war, we saw that in one of the Hamas training camps they had built an exact, scaled model of an observer’s position, like the one we operate. They started training there with drones to hit the [machine gun] shooter,” the female soldier, known only by the name Ilana, said.
Accordingly, a plethora of warnings based upon their surveillance had been sent up the chain of command by the unit, only to be ignored, according to the report.
“It’s a unit made up entirely of young girls and young female commanders… There is no doubt that if there were men sitting at those screens, things would look different,” one soldier was cited as saying.
On 7 October, Palestinian group Hamas launched a large-scale surprise attack against Israel, breaching the border. In response, Israel launched strikes and ordered a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to more than two million people, cutting off supplies of food, water, and fuel. On 27 October, Israel began a large-scale ground incursion inside the enclave to eliminate Hamas fighters and rescue hostages.
When the October attack by Hamas
began, the militant group resorted to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to hit Israeli positions, just as the tatzpitaniyot
had observed in their surveillance. According to another female soldier, the unit had seen a replica of a Merkava 4 tank being built and then used for training in Gaza.
One of the surveillance soldiers was described as having apologized for waking up a superior early on 7 October to report having observed “something strange”
However, none of the reports of a potential infiltration of Israel’s border communities
put together by the female surveillance soldiers and sent to senior security officials had purportedly been taken notice of.
“If we had known about this warning, this whole disaster would have looked different… No one told us that there was such a high level of vigilance,” one soldier was cited as saying, adding:
“The IDF left us like sitting ducks. The fighters at least had weapons, and were killed like heroes. The female surveillance soldiers were abandoned by the army and simply slaughtered without having any chance to defend themselves.”
There had previously also been reports that accounts and opinions of surveillance soldiers failed to be taken seriously, with female staff ostensibly treated with contempt.