Israel’s military has installed a C4I system to facilitate the withdrawal of the Gaza Strip and the eviction of nearly its 9,000 Israeli residents.

Military sources said Southern Command, responsible for the Gaza Strip, has been linked by a command, control communications and computer system that would provide commanders with a common situational awareness picture and real-time communications. The sources said the digital system would allow communications between helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles of the Israel Air Force with ground forces commanders and forward observation posts in an effort to reduce sensor-to-shooter cycles and ensure efficient utilization of personnel and other resources.

“In another two weeks, the Gaza division will be on the network,” Brig. Gen. Arnon Zu-Aretz, chief officer of the C4I Directorate, said on Thursday. “The decision to establish the network was not linked to the disengagement.”

Zu-Aretz told a seminar attended by hundreds of soldiers and officers from the C4I directorate that combat units in the Gaza Strip would be linked by data and phone. He said the units have already been connected by secure cellular phones in a project termed “Mountain Rose.”

The military has been ordered to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in August 2005. Officials said the mission would take up to a month and focus on the eviction of the 10,000 Israelis in both areas.

IDF Military sources said the withdrawal would mark the leading mission for all services in 2005. They said every unit would contribute soldiers for the evacuation.

“The disengagement is painful, historic, traumatic and sad from a national point of view,” Maj. Gen. Udi Shani, commander of the C4I Directorate, said. “This is not only for those who would be taken from their homes, but all citizens and soldiers.”

The C4I directorate has established the Mountain Rose cellular network, which provides commanders and officers with secure cellular phone capabilities. Motorola has been the supplier of the phones while the directorate has overseen development of the network.

Mountain Rose has been part of the Digital Army Program, which contains several networks to relay data, voice and battle management information. The Defense Ministry plans to spend 1 billion shekels, or $232 million, for DAP, led by Elbit Systems.

Shani said the military would establish three rings in the evacuation of Jews from the Gaza Strip. The first ring would remove Israelis from their homes. The second ring would provide perimeter security and the third ring would protect against Palestinian attack. He said the General Staff based in Tel Aviv would monitor the withdrawal through network centric systems that would facilitate rapid response and decisions.

“In the disengagement, the key is sensitivity and determination,” Shani said. “And, that the mission is above everything.”