zaterdag 10 januari 2009

Israelische marine ondersteunt IDF in Gaza Oorlog

Er is weinig aandacht voor, maar ook de marine speelt een rol in de Israelische operatie in Gaza.
De Jerusalem Post voer een dagje mee.

Navy integral to Operation Cast Lead
"Fire. Fire. Fire," shouts Capt. Yoni into his two-way radio, before a typhoon cannon on the deck of the Shaldag ship lets off a burst of gunfire toward the Gaza coast.

"There was an indication that rockets were being fired from that location at Ashdod and Ashkelon," explains Yoni, the commander of the naval vessel.

Earlier, Yoni and his troops had scouted the coastline with an advanced thermal camera to ensure no IDF troops were in the area. Suddenly, as the camera zooms in on a hotel under construction on the Gaza coast, one of the soldiers says, "Wait. There's someone there."

The camera zooms in on the location and spots nothing more than a pack of Palestinian dogs.

It's the 13th night of Operation Cast Lead and we're sailing on Yoni's ship some 2.5 kilometers off the Gaza coast. It is the first time a reporter has joined naval forces since the start of the operation.

From the ship, capable of up to 45 kilometers an hour, we see a Tarshish naval vessel, Sa'ar 4.5, which is also part of operations against Hamas.

Since the start of the military campaign, the bulk of the credit for hitting Hamas infrastructure has gone to the air force, which has conducted hundreds of sorties over Gaza. However, the navy has also been operating since the first day of the operation, and has hit some 200 Gaza targets with its various weapons.

The ship gets its orders from the navy's war room, where a group of officers look at a wall lined with television screens showing the sea, the location of Israeli forces and rocket launches from Gaza. On one screen in the middle, the officers watch Al-Jazeera.

"We are guarding Israel's coastal borderline, including Gaza fishing areas, in order to prevent a terrorist infiltration into Israel," explains Maj. Tzur.

The navy has two main advantages over the air force. First and foremost, its weapons aren't weather restricted - the ships can hit a target even in extremely cloudy conditions.

In addition, battleships can fire shells with maximal precision. On several occasions, they have even managed to fire a shell through a window of a building after armed Palestinians were spotted there.

"We get to places no one else can get to," a senior naval officer explains. "We have weapons with great precision, the ability to remain in the battlefield for long periods and we have no problem with clouds."

The navy is tasked, among other things, with imposing the sea blockade on the Strip, preventing weapons smuggling to Gaza via the Mediterranean and thwarting terror attacks.

The navy has a significant force and maintains a constant presence near the Gaza coast.

Several other Israeli naval vessels sail in the area, including Sa'ar 4.5s, hunting Hamas terror cells and backing up ground operations.

"The navy joined the military campaign on the first day," explains the senior officer. "Since then, we have attacked launchers, bunkers and have backed up ground forces operating in the Strip, helping them open routes and clear out suspicious regions and houses from which gunmen have opened fire."

During the campaign, there has been an unprecedented level of cooperation between naval and ground forces, he said.

"There is direct contact between regiment commanders and naval commanders," he explains.

Palestinian police boats have also been hit during naval operations, and according to the officer, Hamas naval forces have been dealt a severe blow. The officer said that there had been attempts to fire at Israeli naval ships, mostly with light arms and anti-tank missiles.

Ships like Yoni's, anchored off the Gaza coast, hunt for terrorists and rocket launching cells. On Monday, 10 Hamas terror operatives were killed by naval forces.

There have also been attempts by Palestinian boats to approach Israeli naval vessels, and the IDF suspects that they are trying to perpetrate a terror attack similar to that carried out on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000, when a small boat rammed into the vessel, blowing it up. There have also been attempts to smuggle arms via the sea into the Strip.

"All the time, there are attempts to approach us.they are dying to hurt us," said the officer. "There is now a naval blockade so anyone who is in the sea is considered suspicious."

Despite the fact that the navy is seemingly far from the rocket-hit Israeli towns, some of its members live in the South. Felipe, who immigrated from Argentina with his family 12 years ago, now lives in Beersheba, in the range of Hamas's Grad rockets.

"What is happening at home is a little frightening," says Felipe. "On the other hand I'm happy to be here defending my home because that's the reason I joined the army."

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