IDF soldiers at the scene of a stabbing attack in Gush Etzion, December 1, 2013..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF’s Etzion territorial brigade completed a 24-hour exercise this week testing responses to kidnappings of soldiers and terrorist infiltrations of Israeli communities, as violence in the Bethlehem area increases.
A senior army officer said the brigade-wide exercise examined a wide range of responses to threats like kidnapping soldiers from hitchhiking posts, and was conducted in cooperation with other security bodies, intelligence agencies, “and those who work with us continuously on a daily basis,” such as police.
“We want to get all the elements of the system to respond and cooperate, so it is ready for any eventuality. We drilled other scenarios, like infiltrations by terrorists into communities, which could occur simultaneously to kidnappings. An infiltration has its own complexity, such as ways to direct movement of civilians, and working with security guards and emergency responders.”
The Etzion Brigade is part of the Judea and Samaria Division, and defends the whole of Gush Etzion including Rachel’s Tomb, south of Jerusalem, a complex area where Israelis and Palestinians live intermixed, wait at the same bus stops, and shop at the same stores.
The brigade’s commanders must take into account additional threats, like the sudden outbreak of rioting. Response to that scenario was also practiced during the exercise.
“We as a brigade have to know how to deal with simultaneous incidents that can pull in multiple directions. We have to be prepared for every escalation and scenario,” the senior officer said.
“One incident can trigger another. A terrorist attack on the Gush [Etzion] junction could set off disturbances in the adjacent village. If we get to the terrorist, his family could block off a road. And we could face an unrelated terrorism incident at the same time,” he added.
The large exercise was held as other units of the brigade continued with routine security missions. Just as the exercise ended, a unit from the brigade captured two knife-wielding terrorists seeking to infiltrate the Tekoa settlement and stab Israelis.
“We analyze the situation continuously, and create a changing reality for the enemy, so that he feels pursued. We just can’t sit there and just defend. We have to give the enemy a sense of uncertainty, and must attack him day and night,” said the officer.
He noted a “certain rise” in violence in the Gush Etzion sector, citing a number of unusual incidents.
The brigade is in good control of intelligence on incidents in the area, he added. “We believe we can contain these events,” said the officer.
“To say that we can achieve a 100 percent success rate against the lone terrorist who takes a kitchen knife and goes out to stab civilians or soldiers – we can’t say that. We can analyze the territory, set up defenses, and make sure the chances of an attacker getting away are low... that in the event the terrorist gets past us, each must know they will be in the very least be captured,” he said.