With tensions rising with Iran, Israel is concerned that the Islamic Republic could deploy up to 200 long-range missiles in Iraq that could be used to attack the Jewish state. Iran is already believed to have hundreds of missiles that can reach Israel.
While the chances of a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran are deemed low, heightened tensions in the North amid the possibility of a confrontation in Syria or Lebanon, could also draw Iran to retaliate.
The rationale for Iran to deploy missiles in Iraq and launch them from there against Israel would be to try and prevent a direct IDF retaliation against targets within Iranian territory.
Israel has reportedly upped its attacks against Iranian infrastructure in Syria in recent weeks. On Monday morning, Israeli Air Force aircraft reportedly struck targets near Damascus, the second such strike within a week.
The airstrike came just as a surprise military drill covering Israel’s entire northern region was announced. Dubbed "Vered Hagalil", the massive aerial drill, which started on Monday, was launched to help prepare the IAF for a future war with Hezbollah.
Israel does not currently believe that Hezbollah is interested in a new war, but military intelligence is of the opinion that there is a relatively high chance for a “few days of combat” between the IDF and the Iranian-backed guerilla organization.
This is believed to be the result of the group’s failure to avenge the killing of one of its operatives last summer in an airstrike in Syria, attributed to the IAF. An illustration of this was seen two weeks ago when Hezbollah fired a surface-to-air missile at an Israeli drone patrolling southern Lebanon. Had the drone been hit, Israeli officials said that the IDF would have been ordered to respond aggressively.
During the Vered Hagalil exercise, increased numbers of fighter jets and helicopters are expected to be noticed across the country, and a number of explosions may be heard in northern Israel. The exercise is said to end on Wednesday.
The Vered Hagalil exercise simulates combat scenarios in the northern front, and will test all components in the IAF's core missions, including maintaining aerial superiority, protecting the country's skies, as well as attacking and gathering intelligence.