RAMALLAH: Israeli forces have digitized their occupation of the West Bank and control over the Gaza Strip through various electronic systems, including dozens of advanced thermal cameras deployed across the West Bank’s main roads, as security experts warn that every Palestinian is under their control.
The cameras are connected to a control room manned by specialized security officers who analyze footage and deliver orders to troops.
The surveillance footage captures faces and vehicle registration plates which are sent to the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet, for processing.
The Israeli armed forces have also been provided with software that enables them to recognize people by scanning their faces through mobile phones.
The system is mainly used in the old city of Hebron, where the Palestinians need to cross Israeli checkpoints. The program helps scan approaching persons from 100 meters and, based on saved information captured by other security systems, determines whether the person is wanted or poses a threat.
Alongside the Israeli borders with the Gaza Strip, Shin Bet uses balloons fitted with high-resolution cameras that enable the officers to identify the faces of Palestinian protesters or marchers.
If anyone is identified as a threat, their details are passed to snipers for targeting. The advanced cameras also read any passing vehicle’s number plate from several km inside Gaza to determine whether the vehicle belongs to a suspect.
At 15 crossing checkpoints alongside the West Bank, Israel has replaced the manual documents check of Palestinians who enter Israel daily with a magnetic card smart system to identify the carrier. Entry is decided based on their security status.
The Israeli authorities claim that the process will speed up the crossing of Palestinians, but many have reacted by claiming that it has only been introduced to enhance the 55-year occupation of 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, 350,000 in East Jerusalem and 2 million in Gaza.
In late 2021, Israeli military authorities authorized the Jewish settlers in the West Bank to monitor Palestinian construction work in Area C, which comes under complete Israeli administrative and security control.
The settlers were given small drones to monitor any construction of new houses in nearby Palestinian villages and tasked to report it to the Israeli military authorities.
Even the Palestinian Authority, which enjoys close security coordination with Israel, has not benefited from the new digital processes.
A high-ranking Palestinian police officer told Arab News that when two armed thieves robbed the Bank of Palestine in Ya’abed town near Jenin on Oct. 25 last year and fled to Israel through a hole in the separation wall, the Palestinian Authority police asked the Israeli police to provide CCTV footage, but the Israeli side has not responded.
Monitoring Palestinian social media profiles, using the Pegasus software against Palestinian mobiles and the round-the-clock monitoring of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by drones have reinforced Israel’s digital occupation of millions of Palestinians.
As if this was not enough, the Israeli government has pressured social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to silence Palestinian voices by suspending Palestinian accounts, especially during the escalation of violence.
Israeli security expert and analyst Eyal Alima told Arab News that the mass uprising of 2014 obliged the Israeli security services to change the intelligence methods which did not help deter the individuals carrying out aggressive attacks against Israeli targets.
“What is happening now is an extensive intelligence control of the West Bank through thermal cameras deployed on roads or sensors installed in some areas, in addition to permanent and continuous monitoring of cell phones, social networks and the Internet,” he said.
“No person can carry out any attack without being monitored by the Israeli security services,” said Alima, adding that this was proved by a recent security operation carried out in the West Bank where those involved in the violence were rapidly arrested.
Alima said that every Palestinian living in the West Bank is under the control of these digital system. “A section of Israelis tested the extent of the monitoring being done in the West Bank. The Israeli police monitored their cell phones during the pandemic through Pegasus, which sparked a huge controversy, because of the violation of privacy.
“But the matter is very different when the surveillance takes place in the West Bank, where there are no controls and no restrictions on the Israeli security services. They do what they want,” Alima said.
Israeli security expert and analyst Yoni Ben-Menahem told Arab News: “Most of these electronic means are used to combat terrorism, diagnose dangerous and wanted persons, and prevent infiltration into Israel; as there are special units of the Israeli Army made up of female recruits specialized in operating and monitoring surveillance systems.”
Ben-Menahem also pointed to the electronic wall as another form of digital security, which the Israeli Army finished building along 60 km on the border with the Gaza Strip. Modern systems and sensors were deployed to detect any attempt to dig tunnels toward Israel and to prevent any infiltration into Israel under the ground.