COGAT launches course on operating in urban centers

Ahead of feared new West Bank conflict, the COGAT is trying to improve inter-agency coordination.

Syria Border Breach 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria Border Breach 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the possibility of a Palestinian uprising looming ahead of the PA’s planned unilateral declaration of statehood in September, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) launched a course this week aimed at preparing senior IDF officers and government officials for future military operations in urban centers.
Overseen by the COGAT Instructional School, the month-long course takes participants to Israel’s various fronts from the Gaza Strip and Egyptian border in the south to the Syrian border in the north. In addition, participants visit with the navy and the air force. The course is seen as extremely important today, as interaction with civilian population plays a larger role in military operations, as shown during the recent “Nakba Day” demonstrations and a flotilla that plans to sail to Gaza in coming weeks, to break the Israeli sea-blockade.
On Thursday, the course’s students traveled to the Erez crossing, where the participants – mostly lieutenant colonels and majors – met with the commander of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration Col. Moshe Levi, deputy commander of the Gaza Division, and the commander of the Erez crossing. The group then toured the Kerem Shalom crossing and the city of Sderot.
“The importance of the course is that it is the first time it is being held since Operation Cast Lead over two years ago,” explained Lt.-Col. Khatib Mansour, commander of the COGAT school.
“Our aim is to bring key officers and officials from throughout the government and the military to a month-long course during which they are exposed to some of the strategic dilemmas that we face here.”
COGAT is responsible for coordinating with the Palestinians in the West Bank via the civil administration as well as with the PA and the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. In the event of a war, COGAT has reserve forces that can be deployed if necessary in Lebanon or Syria.
Mansour said that following the “Nakba Day” protests earlier this month and the infiltration into the Golan Heights by Palestinians from Syria, COGAT decided to send the course’s participants to visit the Hermon Brigade and learn about the possible ramifications of a conflict with Israel’s northern neighbor.
“The goal is for all of the different organizations to become familiar with one another and learn how to work together,” he said, adding that the ultimate objective is to minimize harm to civilians in the event of a conflict.
During the day, the course’s participants heard briefings on the Gaza Strip, the sources of the conflict with Hamas and the possible ramifications of the reconciliation agreement recently reached by Hamas and Fatah.