Syria Border Breach 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the possibility of a Palestinian uprising looming ahead of the PA’s planned
unilateral declaration of statehood in September, the Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories (COGAT) launched a course this week aimed at
preparing senior IDF officers and government officials for future military
operations in urban centers.
Overseen by the COGAT Instructional School,
the month-long course takes participants to Israel’s various fronts from the
Gaza Strip and Egyptian border in the south to the Syrian border in the north.
In addition, participants visit with the navy and the air force. The course is
seen as extremely important today, as interaction with civilian population plays
a larger role in military operations, as shown during the recent “Nakba Day”
demonstrations and a flotilla that plans to sail to Gaza in coming weeks, to
break the Israeli sea-blockade.
On Thursday, the course’s students
traveled to the Erez crossing, where the participants – mostly
lieutenant colonels and majors – met with the commander of the Gaza Coordination
and Liaison Administration Col. Moshe Levi, deputy commander of the Gaza
Division, and the commander of the Erez crossing. The group then toured the
Kerem Shalom crossing and the city of Sderot.
“The importance of the
course is that it is the first time it is being held since Operation Cast Lead
over two years ago,” explained Lt.-Col. Khatib Mansour, commander of the COGAT
“Our aim is to bring key officers and officials from throughout
the government and the military to a month-long course during which they are
exposed to some of the strategic dilemmas that we face here.”
responsible for coordinating with the Palestinians in the West Bank via the
civil administration as well as with the PA and the civilian population in the
Gaza Strip. In the event of a war, COGAT has reserve forces that can be deployed
if necessary in Lebanon or Syria.
Mansour said that following the “Nakba
Day” protests earlier this month and the infiltration into the Golan Heights by
Palestinians from Syria, COGAT decided to send the course’s participants to
visit the Hermon Brigade and learn about the possible ramifications of a
conflict with Israel’s northern neighbor.
“The goal is for all of the
different organizations to become familiar with one another and learn how to
work together,” he said, adding that the ultimate objective is to minimize harm
to civilians in the event of a conflict.
During the day, the course’s
participants heard briefings on the Gaza Strip, the sources of the conflict with
Hamas and the possible ramifications of the reconciliation agreement recently
reached by Hamas and Fatah.