Israel’s military has published a map of coronavirus testing sites that inadvertently gave away the location of some of its secretive military bases.
Aside from the civilian testing sites and the military bases where soldiers from Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) might be screened for coronavirus, the map also showed the names, locations and exact perimeters of numerous bases, including facilities belonging to the Israeli air force and military intelligence services.
A military spokesman said the map had been copied from a civilian website that “provides global public services around the world and in Israel.”
“Marking the IDF camps and bases was not done by the military, but copied from the existing map on the website,” the spokesman said.
The Israeli military’s Home Front Command is believed to have made the blunder, posting the map to the country’s National Emergency Portal. The sensitive information was immediately taken down by the IDF after being alerted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The locations of the bases are usually kept hidden because of possible rocket attacks by Israel’s enemies. Such security risk previously prompted Israeli defense chiefs to ban their troops from playing “Pokemon Go” over fears that army base locations would be revealed.
In 2016, Israeli soldiers were warned that the game activates cameras and location services that could be used by the country’s enemies to extract sensitive information.
Israel had also brought down drones belonging to Iran-backed Hezbollah after they allegedly strayed into Israeli airspace.
Social media had also been considered a threat by the IDF in the past as some Israeli soldiers shared more sensitive aspects of their lives online.
In 2015, five paratroopers uploaded a clip showing them dancing to Israel’s Eurovision entry song “Golden Boy.” They were confined to their base for 21 days as punishment. In 2014, a row erupted after dozens of soldiers shared photos on Facebook showing themselves holding signs of solidarity with a Nahal soldier who had been recorded cocking his weapon at a Palestinian. There was also an instance where a soldier named Eden Abergil uploaded a photo of herself in front of bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainees along with the caption: “The most beautiful period of my life.”
The IDF addressed those issues by ordering the soldiers not to reveal classified information when using social media. The order specified that there should be no photos of IDF bases, division numbers, equipment or classified troop movements. The order also commanded soldiers to respect human dignity online and noted that soldiers must not damage the dignity of another soldier, another person or a particular group.
During the pandemic, Israeli military personnel have played a key role in the country’s world-leading vaccine rollout. More than half of the country has been fully vaccinated, giving millions of people access to the “green pass.” This is Israel’s version of a vaccine passport. Vaccinated people can download an app that displays their green pass when they are asked to show it.
The country has nearly no restrictions now with the vast majority of its elderly population already inoculated and millions more already under the protection of their first jab.
New infections are down to three percent of those tested and hospitals are emptying. Israel may become the first nation to tame the pandemic and open up its economy for good – barring the emergence of new vaccine-defying variants.
But health officials warned that the country’s job is not yet finished as it is not yet free from COVID-19. There are some sectors in the country that have been hesitant to get vaccinated, including the Arab-Israeli community and the ultra-orthodox Jewish minority.
The Israeli government is finding ways to get the job done, or in this case get the “jab” done.
The green pass is proving to be too good to pass up for most of the people in Israel, especially the young ones. The green pass scheme generates a barcode on the phone to be checked by staff at leisure establishments. Those without it might find life after the pandemic to be as limited as it was during the crisis.
Perhaps the most tempting reward being dangled by the government to get vaccinated is the promise of travel without quarantine. Even Israeli citizens have found it nearly impossible to return home in recent months.
The government plans to eventually let those vaccinated in Israel travel freely – perhaps even without quarantine upon returning home. (Related: Israel proposes tracking bracelets instead of mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers.)
It’s a risk, according to Nachman Ash, the country’s coronavirus czar. Ash believes that without careful monitoring, Israel could soon fall prey to new variants.
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