In the shadow of ongoing tensions along the border, the IDF launched a large-scale surprise drill on Sunday evening, calling up 2,000 reservists to the North as a test of its ability to quickly engage Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was not informed ahead of time about the drill, but sources close to Ya’alon were quoted as playing down the importance of the exercise.

The drill, which will last until Thursday and will involve live-fire exercises, is aimed at assessing the army’s readiness and operational flexibility, a senior military source said.

It is the first exercise held on this large of a scale for several years, and comes amid tensions with Hezbollah and ongoing instability in neighboring Syria.

The US is reportedly considering the possibility of intervening in Syria following reports of chemical weapons use by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. On Sunday, an Iranian official threatened that any intervention in Syria would result in attacks on Israel.

“Reality forces us to prepare these abilities. The reserves understand this,” the source said.

“The scenario involves Lebanon, but it could also be Syria,” he added.

Over the past 24 hours, the IDF’s Etgar Formation, a part of the Northern Command, began calling up the reservists without prior warning.

After being called up, the reservists were told that their mission had changed, and that they had to deploy accordingly within 48 hours.

“There’s a need for high alert, via a surprise drill. This is a part of our training system,” the source said.

The scenario at the heart of the drill involves a sudden escalation with Hezbollah, leading to ground maneuver inside Lebanon.

Last week, a drone from Lebanon attempted to infiltrate Israeli air space near Haifa before being shot down by an IAF F-16 fighter jet.

In February, a tank battalion from the IDF’s 401st Armored Brigade completed an extensive drill on the Golan Heights. The 9th Eshet Battalion, made up of Israel’s most advanced tanks, the Merkava Mark 4, practiced combat situations involving potential northern fronts and dealing with multiple casualties.

At the same time, the IDF’s Nahal infantry brigade also completed a major drill on the Golan Heights in February, simulating a surprise development. All Nahal Brigade soldiers were suddenly mobilized to the Golan to test their readiness and ability to join a battle quickly.

“We are on the highest alert now to carry out any mission,” Lt.-Col. Oshik Azulai, commander of Nahal’s 932nd Granite Brigade said at the time.

In September 2012, the IDF held a surprise drill and practiced a rapid mobilization of Artillery Corps units from the West Bank to the North.

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