IDF war games in the north simulating a conclict with hezbollah .
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
With the war of words heating up between Israel and Iran, the IDF completed a large scale drill in northern Israel this week, simulating war against Hezbollah.
The drill was carried out by troops belonging to the 450th Battalion from the IDF’s School for Infantry Corps Professions & Squad Commanders (also known as Bislamach).
“This is important training for the next war in the North,” Lt.-Col. Liran Bitton of the 450th battalion told The Jerusalem Post.
Bislamach is where troops are trained to become squad commanders and platoon sergeants.
“This course is the first one that they do as they go from [being a] soldier to officer. This course makes them an officer who has responsibility over some 12 soldiers,” Bitton said. “They understand themselves better, the purpose of their service and their responsibilities. It’s amazing to see the change.”
“The enemy challenges us on every front, but it’s not only the enemy. It’s also the territory and everything that goes with it – like fatigue, injuries and friends who don’t return from battle. You always have the responsibility on your shoulders, and that doesn’t change regarding the front. It’s a mental challenge.”
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006, and in recent months tensions have once again risen along the northern border.
In December, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield
in order to detect and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels dug by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite organization. Jerusalem believes that the tunnels would have been used by 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.
Israeli officials have also repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from the Islamic republic to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state. In order to prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in the war-torn country, Israel has carried out numerous air strikes over the past five years.
But, Israel’s activities in Syria have led America’s top intelligence official to warn of an increased threat of regional war between Iran and Israel.
According to Bitton: “The next war will be different than it was in the past. The enemy has gotten better, and has more advanced weapons and more experience. Both sides have advanced, and we know our enemy. But, at the same time I am sure they know us, too.”
While there is a difference between fighting on the Lebanese and Syrian fronts, “we trained on a lot of fighting techniques – and think about how the enemy will confront us on the battlefield,” Bitton said.
“We know how to prepare ourselves for the different fronts,” Bitton continued, adding that “its not about who we will face, but whether we are really prepared to confront them.”
Former Defense Ministry Ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick has claimed that the IDF is not ready for war, releasing a damning report warning that the military is “worse than it was at the time of the Yom Kippur War” in 1973.
But Bitton says he has high confidence in his soldiers and the reservists, who trained “shoulder-to-shoulder” during the drill, giving the troops the knowledge they gained fighting in past military operations.
“I have high confidence in my men,” he said. “I have fought in many wars with the IDF and I have a lot of trust in them and their professionalism. In terms of reservists, there’s a strong connection between them and conscripts. They fight shoulder-to-shoulder, we train together a lot and they have a lot of advanced equipment... They will tell you that they are ready for war.”
That war, he says, is one that he believes can break out at any moment.
“I always think like that, so that I am prepared and I prepare my soldiers. Of course, we train more and continue to improve,” he said. “At the end of the day, every month that passes, we get better and better. We understand our enemy more and more.”
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