Nahal brigade completes largest drill in three years

2,000 troops simulated war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip

IDF Nahal troops complete Gaza war simulation  (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Nahal troops complete Gaza war simulation
The IDF’s Nahal Brigade has completed their largest drill in three years with thousands of soldiers simulating war with terrorist groups in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The weeklong brigade-level drill trained more than 2,000 soldiers and dozens of reservists, and included intensive cooperation with the Air Force, Engineering Corps, Logistics, Artillery, the Oketz canine unit and more.
The troops prepared for a variety of scenarios in the southern front, and according to Deputy Commander of the Nahal Brigade Lt.-Col. Yossi Penso, are ready for war against the blockaded coastal enclave.
“The brigade eats, drinks, sleeps [and] breathes preparing for the next war in Gaza,” Penso told The Jerusalem Post. “We’ve been drilling every four months for the past two years to be ready for war. The Nahal Brigade is ready.”
On Monday, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had wanted to go to war with Hamas after rockets were fired during his campaign speech in Ashdod, but the plan was stopped at the last moment.
According to Penso, the soldiers are much more prepared than in 2014, with weapons that are more relevant for urban and combat below ground.
“We’ve improved significantly in the arena of underground warfare [and] identifying underground tunnels,” Penso told the Post. “But underground warfare is just part of it. We’ve recently seen the threat of the drones, and soldiers from the brigade have shot down two drones during their operational deployment to the Gaza border some three months ago.”
The drill is very close to the “real thing” – with fighter jets, combat helicopters, tanks, artillery and live-fire scenarios, according to Penso.
“If we are able to succeed in this exercise, then the enemy will have a really hard time against us,” he said. “Today, we work side by side. We had an exercise today with the 401st Armored Battalion, which is with us in every drill.  There’s an organic language that fighters have now. Soldiers are now used to working shoulder-to-thread with the armored brigade.”
Cpt. Dean Zohar, an operations officer in the Brigade, told the Post that troops “have to be ready for everything.”
“In the next war, no matter where we are, we will win,” said Zohar, who was speaking to The Jerusalem Post in the middle of a field in southern Israel on Monday night. “It’s hard to say how it will look, but we work very hard to predict how it will look and what could happen, so we will be ready.”
Zohar took part in Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in 2014, and is sure that the terror group has grown in their capabilities since the last war.
“Just like I’m preparing, so are they,” he said. “Just like I’m learning, so are they. The challenge is figuring out what they’ve learned so that we can be better. We know that we have to be better than them in everything, not only strategically.”
Collaboration across the military has increased, according to Zohar.
“We know that the next time we meet the enemy, we will be working with other parts of the military much closer than before, with better weapons and a stronger and wider infrastructure – be it intelligence or more,” he said. “The challenge we have – and we see it in this drill – is to fight and how to use everything we have, be it Air Force or Navy.”
While both Penso and Zohar are busy training for war in the Gaza Strip, neither are expecting one to break out in the near future.
“I’m not a politician, my job is to be prepared,” Zohar said. “If I am ordered to be ready, I’ll be ready. My job is to protect the citizens of Israel. And wherever I am needed, I will be there.”