Soldiers in the Tavor battalion during a training exercise..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Violence across the West Bank is on the rise, and the Home Front Command’s Tavor Battalion, which took over security in the Binyamin sector last month, is responding by preparing for the worst scenarios.
Battalion commander Lt.- Col. Hai Rokah told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the battalion practiced responses to a terrorist infiltration of Israeli communities in the area. In the simulation, Palestinian gunmen go on a killing spree in a settlement, and the battalion must respond quickly and effectively to limit the loss of life.
“This was a big effort to practice our defense of the sector,” he said. “These scenarios can happen any day.
We have to be prepared. We drilled our territorial company, and the battalion defended the main road,” he said, adding that the exercise took place in Neveh Tzuf (Halamish) on Tuesday night, and again in Shvut Rahel on Wednesday night.
“The battalion has to know how to kill the terrorists and care for the injured,” he said.
Since the battalion does not know every street in its area of operations, it has to rely on and work with local armed civilian response squads, and get in touch with them rapidly in the event of an attack.
“They complete the chain, enabling a pursuit of the terrorists,” Rokah said. The IDF’s Beduin trackers also played a role, providing peripheral defenses around the forces.
After a month in the area, Rokah described a “very complex period” for his battalion.
“The Binyamin sector is the nerve center of diplomatic developments. Some of these have led to a rise in hostile action,” he said.
“This scenario [of an infiltration] is one we expect to occur. Violent, hostile activities here are rising. The reality is getting more challenging.
The exercises we hold are always more challenging than the reality; we want to be well prepared,” the battalion commander said.
In recent weeks, the Tavor Battalion has uncovered a large quantity of weapons among Palestinians, he said, naming firearms, rifle telescopes, ammunition, and bombs.
Additionally, soldiers have responded to a rising level of firebombing attacks and reports of shots fired.
“We have made lots of arrest of suspects, responding quickly to events,” he said.
“We have been active every night.”
The Tavor Battalion was formed three years ago, and is one of four conscripted Home Front Command battalions that specialize in search and rescue missions during rocket and missile attacks. During more routine times, they carry out daily security missions.
Sixteen percent of the battalion’s soldiers and officers are women. It arrived to Binyamin from the Jericho sector, an area Rokah said was visibly calmer.
“We have done a 180 degree [turn] here. Our goal is to complete our mission as best as possible.”