Israeli soldiers stand near the area where Israeli military personnel continue their work on exposing and thwarting cross-border tunnels dug from Lebanon into Israel, as seen on the Israeli side of the border, near the town of Metula December 19, 2018.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Amid the tensions of the IDF’s Operation Northern Shield, the Israeli military announced on Tuesday the formation a new reserves battalion to act as the first line of defense against Hezbollah.
Hezbollah operatives discover concrete spilling from attack tunnel to Israel, January 1, 2019 (IDF)
Called “Gates of Fire,” or Sha’are Ha’esh, the battalion will protect the Israeli communities along the northern border with Lebanon under the regional IDF division responsible for the Western Galilee region, the “Baram” brigade.
According to the military, the battalion, which was given the number 9300, is made up of reservists who were recently released from the Golani Brigade’s elite reconnaissance battalion.
Col. Roi Levi, commander of the Baram Brigade, was quoted by the military as telling soldiers during the formation ceremony for the unit that the battalion serves two purposes: to defend communities and then attack Hezbollah inside Lebanon.
“The establishment of the battalion constitutes an important milestone in the defense of the northern border of the state of Israel, and another significant step for us to ensure that “good will overcome evil,’” Levi said on the IDF’s website.
“In recent years, Hezbollah has intensified its battles in Syria, has acquired more sophisticated weapons, and has openly said that it plans to invade our territory,” he said. “We have to be prepared for the time it will choose to attack and be prepared to defend ourselves and attack them in return.”
“We are facing an enemy that intends to attack settlements and outposts,” Levy added. “It’s not without reason that the battalion is called ‘Gates of Fire.’ The soldiers will have to act quickly, drive them out from Israeli territory and prepare for the second mission – attacking key areas and decisively defeating Hezbollah in its own territory, Lebanon.”
The battalion, whose most veteran members were released from the army four years ago, held a five-day drill during the past month, in which it practiced a wide range of scenarios it may encounter during a war with Hezbollah, including urban combat and nighttime warfare.
Israel launched Operation Northern Shield in early December to discover and destroy tunnels dug by the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group into northern Israel. The IDF has so far found five tunnels and has destroyed at least four of them, two by explosives and another two by flooding with liquid concrete.
The Israeli military has repeatedly warned that the Lebanese government is responsible for the digging of the tunnels, which they say were part of a Hezbollah plan to attack communities in northern Israel.
The military believes that the attack tunnels were built as a classified component in Hezbollah’s “Conquer the Galilee” plan. The plan would have allowed the group’s elite Radwan fighters to infiltrate into Israel on land, fire short-range rocket and mortar fire and allow other Radwan fighters to infiltrate into communities via the tunnels, cut them off from Route 90 and to kill as many civilians and troops as possible.
The group, which is referred to as an army by most experts, has amassed a massive arsenal of an estimated 130,000-150,000 short- to long-range rockets and missiles, which are expected to pound Israel in the next war.
Thousands of them are expected to be launched toward the Jewish state by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite army within the first couple of hours of the conflict.
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