"We are...training in advance of the possibility there will be a new conflict."
By YAAKOV KATZPublished: MARCH 16, 2006 00:36Advertisement
Expecting a new round of Palestinian violence, the IDF has begun conducting intensive training exercises for troops in Central Command with an emphasis on urban warfare to prepare them for fighting within Palestinian cities, a senior field officer has told The Jerusalem Post.
However, official sources in Central Command said the ongoing training exercises were standard procedure, and did not signify an expectation that a third intifada would begin by the summer.
Other IDF officers serving in the West Bank had speculated that widespread Palestinian violence could begin as early as August or September. As a result, the army has decided to utilize the current relative quiet period in the territories, one Central Command officer said, to begin its preparing its forces.
"We are bringing all of the battalions and the companies in for training in advance of the possibility there will be a new conflict," the senior officer told the Post. "We are focusing mostly on urban warfare similar to the fighting inside Palestinian cities as well as mental preparations."
The training has been going on since the beginning of the year and will continue until the summer, the officer said. On Tuesday, as an example, Beduin trackers from the Efraim Brigade were for the first time taught how to break into homes and capture wanted Palestinians at an urban warfare compound in the middle of Samaria. The army plans to complete construction of a new urban warfare center in the southern base of Tze'elim by the end of the year. The center, which will be modeled after a Palestinian city, will serve as a training ground for IDF troops.
The mental preparations, the officer said, included weekly talks for soldiers with battalion and company commanders. "Most of the soldiers currently in the army were not in service during the tough years of fighting between 2002 and 2003, including Operation Defensive Shield," the officer said. "In addition to the physical training, they also need to be prepared mentally for the possibility that we will soon face a new round of violence."
A senior officer from the IDF Human Resources Division involved in mental preparations for IDF troops said he believed the soldiers would in the end be mentally prepared despite their lack of experience in guerilla and urban warfare.
"It will be difficult for the new soldiers who have not experienced such intense fighting," the officer admitted. "But we are preparing them for the possible escalation and are running drills to prepare them so they won't be clueless when the fighting begins."
While the officers predicted the new round of violence would begin by the summer, the defense establishment braced itself on Wednesday for the possibility that terror groups would launch retaliatory attacks against Israel to avenge the IDF operation in Jericho on Tuesday during which soldiers arrested those responsible for the 2001 assassination of former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi.
Once Hamas obtained control of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service and possibly additional PA security branches, one Civil Administration officer recently said, Israel could find itself facing a semi-institutionalized army of 20,000 Hamas terrorists.
While predictions are that Hamas would not use the security branches in a direct war against the IDF, the defense establishment has not ruled out the possibility that Hamas "army" could be used to perpetrate terror attacks in a third intifada.
"Hamas believes the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a result of their terror activity," said a Civil Administration officer stationed near Ramallah. "Terrorism sometimes works in their best interest."
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