The IDF held a surprise large-scale drill in the Golan Heights Wednesday as
turmoil continued to rock Syria, just across the border.
The drill saw
Artillery Corps conscripts and officers who were performing ordinary patrol
activity in the West Bank airlifted in helicopters without prior warning to
their artillery pieces’ firing positions in the Golan. Hours later they took
part in live artillery-fire exercises.
“Some of the soldiers were on
vacation and some were on operational missions in other areas, mainly the West
Bank,” a senior IDF source acquainted with the drill said. “It came as a
full surprise to them.”
A drill of this nature and scope had not been
held in the Golan region for several years. It began at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday
when chief artillery officer Brig.-Gen. Roee Riptin, who planned the
drill, gave the go-ahead for the exercise to begin.
“The aim was to test
IDF readiness for all scenarios,” the IDF source explained. “We simulated
a situation in which there was no advance warning, and getting forces to the
Golan in a surprise situation... It is a drastic transition.”
Air Force also took part in the drill.
The source said the army’s command
level was “reasonably satisfied” with the results, saying the transition had
gone according to plan.
Prior to Wednesday, senior IDF officers at the
Operations Branch and on the General Staff worked with Riptin to plan the exercise, though very few people were aware
that it was about to take place. On Tuesday evening a drill-monitoring group was
assembled and taken to the Golan, where it was briefed for the first
“This drill is part of a routine program of evaluations and
surprise exercises held throughout the year by the IDF comptroller,” the IDF
Spokesman’s Office said in a media statement.
It came on the heels of a
major Golani Brigade infantry and Armored Corps exercise, held in the Golan in
recent weeks, that simulated combat with Hezbollah.
The IDF said
Wednesday’s drill had been planned well in advance and should not be linked with
any current developments.
It did, however coincide with ongoing concerns
over instability in Syria and the fate of chemical weapons there.
on Wednesday, The London Times reported that a Syrian general who defected to
anti-regime rebels, Maj.-Gen. Adnan Sillu, said Syrian President Bashar
Assad had planned to transfer chemical weapons to Hezbollah, and also weighed
using the weapons on rebels.
Earlier this week, the German weekly Der
Spiegel reported that the Syrian army had testfired shells east of Aleppo that
were capable of carrying deadly chemical substances.