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On a small Israeli military base right next to the Gaza perimeter fence there is a windowless room with many screens. Israeli soldiers watch video feeds from cameras peering into the Gaza Strip 24 hours a day. They see a lot - a home getting slowly repaired after the 2014 war, donkeys guided by farmers, Hamas militants on motorcycles. NPR's Emily Harris visited the observation room.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Only female soldiers staff the screens of live footage sent in from video cameras all along Gaza's boundary. One is 20-year-old Orr Israeli. Yes, her last name is the same as her nationality. She's a commander here.
ORR ISRAELI: Girls do it the best. They have this commitment. They feel obligated to that job and to the mission - to do it, to look without take her eyes off the screen.
HARRIS: Off multiple screens. Soldiers can flip back and forth between black and white, color or heat-triggered pictures. They zoom in and out. The commander explains the mission.
ISRAELI: To look over to the enemy - to the other side, not enemy - to the other side and then collect our information and our data.
HARRIS: That siren in the background goes off in this room whenever a screen watcher sees a Gazan near the fence. An alert can be sent to soldiers in the field.
ISRAELI: You know that the sirens - you jump, so...
HARRIS: The limits Israel imposes on Gazans approaching the fence cuts off access to valuable farmland. Palestinians say this and all the military's observation of them contribute to collective punishment of almost 2 million people. But Israel says the limits and cameras are needed to stop militants from firing rockets. They're often launched from the mile or so inside Gaza Israeli cameras can see. In the last war, Hamas militants also entered Israel using tunnels. These cameras can't see underground.
ISRAELI: We don't have, like, electric sensors underneath the ground, but we do have - (speaking Hebrew).
HARRIS: Commander Israeli is pretty constantly interrupted. A military spokesman present fills in the gist - other units are looking for tunnels. We leave the camera room and hop in a jeep to get a first-hand view into Gaza. On a small rise right in front of the fence, a field commander and a soldier pull out their binoculars. The military won't let them say even their first names, citing security. This is the soldier.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: See from here the Hamas post over there - the white post.
HARRIS: That white tower in the field?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah, like 300 meters out.
HARRIS: He hands the binoculars to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You can see...
HARRIS: I see a tractor, a red tractor.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: That's a farmer.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yes.
HARRIS: And where's the Hamas guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The guy on the motorcycle.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: A left and down.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Guard post - a little down and a little left, you will see a man with a motorcycle.
HARRIS: Oh, yeah, I see him. He is in the dirt, just sitting. He's sitting in like an olive grove sort of thing. I see him on the motorcycle.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah.
HARRIS: I can't tell what he's looking at.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: He's probably looking at us.
HARRIS: If that guy really is a Hamas militant, these soldiers say he could be planning attacks on Israeli vehicles that travel on both sides of the fence. Or he could be part of a tunnel team. Here is the Israeli field commander.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Just here there was a tunnel. Hamas get out from here. They would wait for someone will come and they will attack him.
HARRIS: He says that happened right here in 2014. A camera is stationed at this spot on the fence. A machine gun is, too. Both are controlled by Israeli soldiers back in the observation room. Emily Harris, NPR News, Nahal Oz.
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