The IDF’s eyes on Syria: the new system forewarning of Iranian retaliation

Ynet provides a special, exclusive peek at the advanced MSS, or multisensory system, deployed across Israel's northeastern frontier; as each suspicious occurrence is graded on a 1-10 scale, with a flick of their joysticks lookouts can spot rebels deep within Syrian territory down to the gun they're carrying

The Syrian village of Al-Ahmadiyah sits on the road between New Quneitra—one of the last symbols of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in the Golan—and the southern part of the Golan Heights, which is controlled by the rebels.

The road can be clearly seen from the top of the Israeli Hermonit outpost, at the slopes of which is the verdant Valley of Tears. Soldiers stationed in the Syrian army positions that surround Quneitra occasionally open machinegun fire at rebel vehicles going south, toward the villages Assad is planning to retake.

Only three months ago, assisted by helicopters dropping incendiary barrels, was Assad's army able to conquer the region surrounding the town of Beit Jann in the Syrian Hermon—merely several kilometers away from the Israeli side of the mountain. Assad's current objective in the Syrian Golan Heights is to cut off the supply route passing through the aforementioned road.

A lookout using the MSS system and the view it affords of deep within Syria (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A lookout using the MSS system and the view it affords of deep within Syria (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

?The echoes of a mortar bomb meeting its target can still be heard on occasion, drowning out the bucolic sounds of the western (Israeli) portion of the region. Observation from the Hermonit outpost is an easy one even without binoculars and offers a full view of the mushroom cloud appearing immediately thereafter, before it dissipates in the Heights' winds.

Soon, however, the echoes of explosions may no longer be confined to the Syrian side of the border.

An Iranian revenge attack for the strike on drone base the Islamic republic built near Homs—and which is attributed to Israel—may take the form of an antitank strike on IDF forces or a heavy barrage of rockets near the border.

The soldiers tasked with recognizing such a strike and warning against it are the lookouts of the Golan Division. To carry out this momentous task, they have been outfitted with the most sophisticated of "weapons": a multisensory system (MSS), of which Ynet has been cleared to provide the first glimpse.

Lookouts observing the Syrian Golan (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Lookouts observing the Syrian Golan (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The MSS is comprised of a series of poles affixed with state of the art radars and advanced cameras capable of shooting in both day and nighttime conditions, allowing the operation room's lookouts to scan and observe not only the Golan across the border, but also deep within Syria—and all with a flick of their joysticks.

Deployment of the army's first MSS in the Syrian Golan was not coincidental. Hezbollah made a play for precisely that region four years ago but was thwarted by offensive actions—both overt and covert—attributed to the IDF.

Since then, the war-torn country's various rebels groups—from the Islamic State through the successors of Al-Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army—have taken over most of the strip of land near the border Syria shares with Israel.

While Assad is growing ever bolder in light of his impending Russian-assisted victory in the civil war, the Syrian Golan has still been rather low on his priorities list. While regime forces have even succeeded in taking the Syrian Hermon ridge in the past few months, they have yet to begin a significant maneuver southward, to the Heights' plains.

Soldiers work 4-hour shifts followed by 8 hours of downtime (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Soldiers work 4-hour shifts followed by 8 hours of downtime (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

According to one IDF estimate, Assad's significant move to reconquer the Syrian Golan will be carried out either simultaneously or after he retakes the large community of Daraanear Jordan, which is also not far from the tri-border area with Israel.

Radars throughout the sector

Either way, the Israeli intelligence hold on the ground is becoming more and more tenuous. Dozens of armed groups the IDF has never encountered before, each armed with a different ideology that is not exactly Zionist, have staked their claim several hundreds of meters from the border.

These groups are joined by the regime's own militias, Iranian "advisers" and routine security officers from Assad's army, with no one on the Israeli side being able to surmise what relations with any of them will look like once the war comes to its inevitable conclusion.

Commander of the Eagle Battalion 595 Lt.-Col. Nir Megidish, overseeing?combat intelligence collectionfor the Bashan Division that has been tasked with defending the sector, said, "You can see tanks and APCs driving near the border fence and have to distinguish at a moment's notice who's a suspect and who isn't, who's about to point a barrel at you and who won't attack."

Lt.-Col. Megidish (R) speaking to Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Ron Ben-Yishai (Photo: Eli Segal)
Lt.-Col. Megidish (R) speaking to Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Ron Ben-Yishai (Photo: Eli Segal)

Megidish has become one of the region's most tenured field officers, and has marked his fourth year in this sensitive role. Prior postings saw him taking part in creating the battalion that collects intelligence as to the goings-on in Syria in real-time.

He added, "With all of the chaos in Gaza right now, they mostly have to deal with Hamas while the Galilee Division mostly faces Hezbollah. Here you have rebels armed with tanks positioning near the border with Israeli families hiking and Israeli farmers tilling their lands mere hundreds of meters away."

"Calm has been maintained in the past three years just when the rebels controlled most of the border," he remarked.

Senior IDF officials have been speaking about the moment the Syrian civil war trickles to Israel for the past five years, most likely in the form of a large-scale terrorist attack carried by a group infiltrating across the border.

 (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The army's biggest fear is the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, which has since changed its name to Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. the group is affiliated with the Islamic State and controls the southern Syrian Golan Heights.

Terror attacks were noted on the border from the war's outset, however, with combat soldiers wounded by the detonation of explosive devices and, in another instance, the death of an Israeli teen hit by an antitank rocket.

The feared "mega-attack" has yet to take place, nonetheless, and tasked with blocking it are Lt.-Col. Megidish's orders to the MSS's lookouts—and to that end the army seems to have undergone a technological revolution of sorts.

"The fence has been wired with different kinds of radars and the most advanced cameras," Megidish continued. "The MSS technology allows us to translate our operational priorities list—which we predetermine, who or what to track—into tasklist the lookout on duty receives."

The view the MSS affords is amazingly detailed (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The view the MSS affords is amazingly detailed (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

"There are long stretches here on the Hermon without a fence acting as barrier due to the difficult topography, which makes control that much more challenging," the IDF official stated.

Lookouts can pick up combatants from kilometers away...

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