For six years, Syria’s civil war has persisted and in the meantime, the IDF is keeping track of what is occurring right next door to Israel. Just over the border fence, an IDF special forces unit covertly gathers intelligence behind enemy lines.

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In complete darkness and silence, IDF forces march towards Syria. This is the Target Field Intelligence Unit of the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, which is the IDF’s newest force. The unit itself was a secret and its existence was only released for publication after two of its soldiers perished in a helicopter accident. Their covert mission is to observe and collect intelligence in the depths of Syria.

The observation point is situated near an abandoned UN outpost that was taken over by the rebels and is located a mere 500 meters from the nearest Syrian village. Throughout the stay behind enemy lines, aside from the necessity to remain silent and to hide, the force’s most primary concern is to steer clear of “presents,” or explosives, as any Syrian can technically hike to the outpost on foot. As a result, the soldiers conduct a sweep through all of the rooms and ditches in order to ensure that all is clear.

“What we see are the Syrian villages that we are observing,” said IDF Col. Nir Magidish, who is the force commander. “Behind us are the Israeli towns’ lights and we are here, basically, one step ahead in order to protect these towns.”

Throughout the years of the civil war, the unit has recorded exercises and reconnaissance of Assad’s army and the rebels, but also fighting within the villages that consist of face to face shoot outs. “There is a moment that stuck with me from what I saw here in one of the villages,” Magidish said. “They [ISIS] took a man who was a so-called ‘heretic’, hung him and beheaded him. They drove with the body along the street in order to showcase.”