Amid drop in violence, IDF’s Judea Brigade drills sudden escalation

Col. Yair Ben-Ezra to ‘Post’: The history of our sector shows that even when things look quiet, we must always be ready for any scenario.

Members of the Kfir Infantry Brigade on combat training maneuvers in the Golan Heights recently (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Members of the Kfir Infantry Brigade on combat training maneuvers in the Golan Heights recently
The Judea Territorial Brigade completed a series of exercises on Wednesday to test responses to a sudden security escalation.
The brigade’s commander told The Jerusalem Post that the unit is ready for a sudden deterioration, despite the fact that the number of attacks in the area is actually down.
Col. Yair Ben-Ezra, commander of the Judea Brigade, said reservists were called up to the brigade’s headquarters and were joined by field battalions from the Kfir infantry brigade, the local Combat Intelligence Collection battalion, special forces, and the Border Police for the drill, which began on Sunday.
“We are in a situation in which reality changes, and as part of our readiness, we have to be prepared for different scenarios,” Ben-Ezra said.
These include an outbreak of mass Palestinian rioting, accompanied by a steep rise in terrorist attacks. Should these threats materialize, the brigade would have to defend central arteries in the area, protect Israeli communities, call up backup forces, and go on the offensive, making arrests and getting to those behind the violence, without harming Palestinian noncombatants, the commander added.
“We drilled responses to an infiltration of a community, large disturbances, and a change to the operational reality. All of this helps keeps us ready and makes us think about preparing for these scenarios. It was a very challenging drill,” Ben-Ezra said.
If the simulations the brigade conducted come to pass, he said, the key to dealing with them will be to strike “a balance between defensive and offensive actions.”
Improving cooperation with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Israel Police, and the IDF civil administration were also focuses of the drill, he said.
The commander stressed that “we have no intention of harming innocents or damaging the fabric of life [for Palestinian civilians].”
“There’s no doubt that after this weekend, our confidence in our capabilities to deal with these situations is good. But we also have a lot of lessons to learn and improvements to make,” he added.
Asked to evaluate the latest situation on the ground, Ben-Ezra said that the past five months saw a drop in the number of Palestinian attacks, in comparison with the same period last year.
“There are pinpoint incidents, but compared to last year the security situation is much better,” he added. “This is the result of a lot of work. There is also an understanding on the other side of the price that it would pay if violence flared up. There is a desire on the Palestinian side to create a good fabric of life, to make a living and develop economically.”
Nevertheless, risk factors persist that could one day lead to a sudden explosion of violence, or to a succession of attacks that would result in Palestinian masses coming out to riot.
“We know that there is a sort of frozen situation, diplomatically, between us and the Palestinians. We have gone into a waiting period during the elections,” he said. “We saw that a deterioration in Jerusalem can definitely have a knock-on effect on our sector. Therefore, we have to be ready at all times.
There is a history in our area [which shows that] even if it looks quiet, and the reality is positive, and the fabric of life is good, we must always be ready for terrorist attacks, and that they will not necessarily be preceded by intelligence alerts.”
Ben-Ezra also acknowledged that outside forces, particularly Hamas in Gaza, continue to try to penetrate Judea to ferment terrorism and set up attack cells.
“The desire to set up attacks is here all of the time. We are thwarting this.
So is the Palestinian Authority. We have a good security coordination. It is also in their interest for the streets to be quiet and for economic development to exist,” he said.