Givati troops drill storming village in battle

The sun had just risen over an army training center in Lachish, southern Israel, and IDF soldiers and tanks were advancing quickly toward a mock village, complete with buildings and a minaret.

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September 12, 2013 23:00
3 minute read.
IDF INFANTRY train with tanks providing cover in a built-up area at an army installation in Lachish.

IDF INFANTRY train 370. (photo credit: yaakov lappin)

The sun had just risen over an army training center in Lachish, southern Israel, and IDF soldiers and tanks were advancing quickly toward a mock village, complete with buildings and a minaret.

The troops were members of a company from the Givati Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion, who would normally be carrying out security duties in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. Today, however, they were sharpening their skills for a mission of a very different nature – the ability to respond to an escalation in a northern battle arena.

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Capt. Habtam Paraba, operations officer for the battalion, guided his jeep over a rocky landscape and sped toward the village, as he explained the purpose of the drill.

“They’re training for battle in a built-up area. This is combined warfare, involving infantry and tanks,” he said.

At the training site, Lt.-Col. Liran Hajbi, battalion commander, stood next to his communications officer. The radio crackled with orders he and his subordinates gave to the forces.

“Six, you’re clear to open fire. Snipers, fire,” a voice over the radio said.

“This is for an eventuality in which we’ll need to enter a village with tanks and infantry. It’s similar to the real arena – a hilly region that requires close-quarters combat.

“This drill has been rolling for three days,” Hajbi told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s been a physical and mental strain for [the soldiers]. They marked 50 kilometers to get here. Now, we’ve got snipers on the ridges of the hills providing cover as we move through.”

Hajbi stressed that a combined movement, made up of infantry and tanks, is the right way to enter this kind of battle, adding that the tanks provided essential cover.

Meanwhile, the soldiers spread out along various village paths. Some crouched and moved forward in turns, as they moved down the main road, while others flanked the village. They sometimes walked briskly behind the Merkava Mark 3 tanks.

Suddenly, “shots” were heard. A man playing a terrorist popped his head out of a building and fired blanks at a group of his comrades.

“He’s injured,” Hajbi yelled, gesturing toward a soldier.

The others practiced evacuating him on a stretcher, while under fire.

Hajbi then picked up the radio and spoke to the tank crews, who hailed from the 188th Armored Brigade.

“I want you to keep flowing into the village. Don’t stop the momentum,” he told them.

The deafening roar of tank engines rumbled through the training site.

In a real situation, the infantry battalion commander would have final say over the movement of all of the forces.

“The tank crews also have to be taught how to fight in a built-up area. It’s totally new for them. They’re like a bull in a china shop. Here, they must provide cover as the infantrymen advance. This synergy gives us the advantage. We have to learn this. It’s a profession,” Hajbi told the Post.

The company went from one building to the next, entering and searching for terrorists.

Occasionally, shots rang out in buildings as “enemy” positions were uncovered.

“This is a critical exercise. We won’t allow anything to disrupt our battle readiness,” Hajbi added, referring to the decrease in battle training due to the recent budget cut suffered by the IDF.

With reserve duty canceled for the coming year, conscripted infantry forces like the Givati Brigade have had to remain longer in their areas of daily operations, thereby slowing down the rotation to other areas and allowing less time for these types of essential drills.

Suddenly, Hajbi informed a tank that it ran over a land mine. Soldiers rushed to it, pulling the crew members out and placing them on stretchers.

“This tank shut down our main corridor. Secure the site,” Hajbi ordered.

On another path rising up over the village, a tank released heavy smoke that acted as a screen for yet more advancing company members.

“The fighting here is constant but slow, from building to building” Hajbi said, during a break in the advance, as troops crouched behind walls and tanks.

“We’ll face enemy resistance and we’ll have to provide cover, our own cover – snipers and artillery and tank cover. It’s about maximum firepower and maximum lookout positions. Combat helicopters will be involved too,” he added.

“We’re confident in our force’s ability to take buildings with terrorists in them,” Hajbi said.

Getting back on the radio, he ordered his forces to provide covering fire as the young men advanced down the main street. Soon after the sun came up, the village had been taken.


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