IDF intelligence corps will continue battle against coronavirus

The IDF has agreed to keep its research division working with the Ministry of Health to help find answers to the pandemic and prevent a second wave.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A ceremony on Tuesday marked the end of Israel’s National Information Center, which was set up to fight the coronavirus pandemic. IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of Mossad Yossi Cohen, Chief of the Intelligence Division Tamir Hyman, and other senior officials took part.

However, cooperation will continue in a reduced format. The IDF announced that it would keep its top intelligence officers working together with the Health Ministry for the next year and a half.

Some 90 soldiers will continue supporting the Health Ministry with their research, and help prepare the authorities for a possible second wave of infections.

They will stay on in the National Information Center that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established two months ago in the ministry to centralize the efforts against the pandemic.

Members of the Research Division and the prestigious Unit 8200 of the Intelligence Corps were transferred in March from their regular jobs of countering the country’s regional enemies to fighting off the global pandemic in Israel.

Their new mission was to find all available data on the virus so that the government would be able to base its health-related decisions on up-to-the minute, solid facts.

The center not only culled information from sources around the world, it also managed the cooperative efforts of military, industry, and medical personnel to domestically produce items in short supply, such as ventilators.

Another important task was the procurement of millions of pieces of personal protection equipment under the direction of Mossad chief Yossi Cohen when worldwide demand for them skyrocketed.

Cohen explained the advantages of harnessing the IDF and security services even in an arena that was completely new to them.

“The coronavirus was, and still is, a potential and mysterious threat,” he said.

“It was necessary to lend a shoulder, and our people – who identified the need – unhesitatingly answered the challenge. We don’t have medical expertise. We’re not epidemiologists…. We brought with us the ability to identify problems, break them down into causes and find solutions.

“We brought technological, logistical and intelligence capabilities. We brought in our foreign relations. And most of all, we brought the spirit of the organization: optimism, dedication, enterprise, storming objectives – battle spirit,” Cohen said.

Cohen handed responsibility for procurement back to the Health Ministry on Wednesday.