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Photo by: IDF Spokesman's Office
IDF launches surprise live-fire drill in Golan
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
19/09/2012
Exercise in Golan Heights aims to test army readiness and fitness in North and Central Commands, Artillery Corps.
 
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.”

The 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 time.

“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.

Earlier 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.
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