IDF Launches Surveillance Balloon Over Beitar Illit Access Road

A view of construction in the Beitar Illit neighborhood of “Giva C” (foreground) and Tzur Hadassah (background). (Flash90/Nati Shohat)

In the wake of ongoing rock attacks on the Husan bypass road, the IDF has launched a patrol balloon that will provide an “eye in the sky” on the doings down in the Arab village, and enable the army to intervene before rock throwing attacks or riots ensue. The system is used in other areas of Yehudah and Shomron and in Arab neighborhoods of Yerushalayim, and has proven to be very effective.

Although not widely reported, rock attacks are very common on the road, and many of the victims are residents of Beitar Illit, who use the Husan bypass road to reach Gush Etzion and Yerushalayim. In recent weeks, drivers have complained of broken windows and flat tires due to the sharp stones thrown at them. B’chasdei Shamayim, no major injuries have occurred yet.

The surveillance balloons, made by an Israeli company, use high-resolution cameras to take ongoing images of the areas being patrolled, enabling security officials to focus on areas where trouble is brewing. Based on behavioral profiles and data on crowd behavior, Israeli security forces can send in soldiers to intervene and break up a crowd or arrest members of a rock-throwing gang before they begin their “work.” Such balloons are used in Arab neighborhoods in and around Jerusalem, and according to police they have significantly reduced the number of rock attacks in the city.

The balloon was launched after a wide-ranging effort by the IDF to halt the rock attacks showed mixed results. Work permits were pulled and several entrances to and from Husan were closed off, while top army officials met with leaders of the village to convince them to lean on youths who conduct the rock attacks. Attacks had gone down earlier in March, but in recent days were on the rise again, residents complained.

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