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
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.
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
“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.
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.
“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.
want you to keep flowing into the village. Don’t stop the momentum,” he told
The deafening roar of tank engines rumbled through the training
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
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
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
“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.