The Israel Defense Forces’ counter-terrorism school is trying to use innovative tactics and training programs to maintain quiet on the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and prepare for future wars.
In particular, the Lotar Counter-Terrorism School trains and equips snipers and underground fighting units.
Snipers have perhaps the most difficult and potentially explosive task on the Gaza border — using live fire to prevent infiltration and attacks on Israel’s border communities.
Deaths from Israeli live fire frequently make the international news and tend to be spun to Israel’s detriment, making the snipers a major part of the media war.
A new rifle has been issued to prospective snipers, and tactics are being changed to emphasize non-lethal targeting if possible. “The goal is to wound, not kill,” a high-ranking officer told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.
The training has become extremely difficult as a result. The officer said that the IDF is continuously learning lessons from field operations and “a sniper who doesn’t hit well enough, or who has professional, normative, or mental problems, will be removed from the mission and removed from the school.”
Information is gathered in real time from the battlefield, with war room instructors gathering data on “who hit and who didn’t, and where.” As the information comes in, “we change the means of fire, and methods of firing and shielding the snipers.”
One change that has already been made is specific targeting decisions.
“At first we told [the snipers] to shoot at the leg,” said the officer, but when it was shown that this could kill, “we told them to shoot under the knee, and then we specifically ordered to shoot at the ankle.”
In addition, the Israeli news site Mako reported, Lotar is training soldiers for tunnel warfare, as both Hamas and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah will likely employ them in future conflicts, with an emphasis on hostage rescue. In particular, the training involves a special unit specifically intended for underground fighting.
Col. Yaron Sitbon, head of Lotar, said, “The school is responsible for the main challenges of maneuvering in the next war. … It takes the fighters in the infantry brigades that deal with territory in built-up and underground areas, and makes it possible for them to better address these complex challenges.”