Soldiers from the IDF’s 401st Armored Brigade.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
With tensions high along Israel’s northern border, soldiers from the IDF’s 401st Armored Brigade are completing a large-scale drill simulating war with Hezbollah.
“This drill simulated what will need to be done during a war with Hezbollah,” Maj. Tsur Goldman of the 401st Armored Brigade told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
While most drills take place in the Golan Heights, hundreds of troops drilled for two weeks in the northern Jordan Valley in challenging mountainous terrain which is similar to the terrain found in southern Lebanon and on a variety of scenarios including urban combat.
According to Goldman, “There is a good feeling among the soldiers that we will complete our mission,” especially after they finished a 17-week-long training “which allowed us to go from looking at the most basic thing to in depth to the smallest detail.”
The IDF has significantly stepped up the scope and frequency of its combat training to improve its readiness. As part of the IDF’s five-year Gideon plan, the military has returned to 17 weeks of consecutive training, an increase from the 13 weeks soldiers trained for the past 15 years.
Last week, the IDF’s Givati reconnaissance battalion completed a challenge drill simulating war with Hezbollah and a week earlier troops belonging to the 450th Battalion from the IDF’s school for Infantry Corps Professions and Squad Commanders (also known as Bislamach), completed a similar large scale drill in northern Israel.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006, during which around 165 Israelis and 1,200 Lebanese were killed, and in recent months tensions have once again risen along the northern border.
According to Goldman, the biggest challenge facing troops confronting Hezbollah is that the group has morphed from a guerrilla organization into an army which has gained a significant amount of battlefield experience through its fighting in Syria for the regime of Bashar Assad.
The group has also obtained sophisticated anti-tank weapons which could be used against Israeli tanks in the case of another war between the two enemies.
“But we have the best tanks in the Middle East,” he said.
With the help of Iran, Hezbollah has also rebuilt its arsenal since 2006 and has hundreds of thousands of short- and medium-range rockets, and several thousand more missiles that can strike deep into Israel.
The group also dug several cross-border attack tunnels from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory, and in December, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to detect and destroy them. Israel believes that the tunnels would have been used by the Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit to infiltrate into Israel, in an attempt to take control of several communities and kill as many civilians and troops as possible.
While Goldman told the Post that he was not expecting a war with the Shi’ite Lebanese terrorist group in the near future, his troops – which will now head down south to defend Israel’s border with Gaza – are ready.
“We are ready, whether it is in the North or South,” he said. “After all this training, we are ready... it doesn’t matter what front it is.”