Paratroopers head to Gaza for first time in nearly 2 decades

New policy calls for all infantry brigades to rotate between different fronts.

paratroopers 298  (photo credit: IDF file Photo)
paratroopers 298
(photo credit: IDF file Photo)
After years of serving in the Central and Northern Commands, the Paratroopers Brigade will head down to Gaza for its first tour of duty in the Southern Command in close to two decades. The red-bereted paratroopers traditionally serve in the Central Command in areas like Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah. They are also frequently deployed in the North, along the Lebanese and Syrian borders and spent most of the Second Lebanon War inside southern Lebanon, clashing with Hizbullah. Col. Herzi Levi will make history as the brigade commander when he leads his four battalions down South to take up operations along the border with the Gaza Strip. Sources in the brigade said that officers were excited about the new tour. "There is a feeling that the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip with Hamas will collapse and we will be the ones there to deal with it," one officer said. The paratroopers will be arriving in the Southern Command following several months of training which culminated in a massive brigade-level exercise in the Golan Heights last month. All of the brigade's battalions also underwent training at the Ze'elim Training Base, where a particular emphasis was put on urban warfare techniques. The decision to post the paratroopers down south is part of a new policy IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi set into effect a year ago, according to which all of the various IDF infantry brigades will rotate between the different fronts to gain experience. "The rotation is important so we are familiar with each front Israel has in case of an escalation there," the officer said. The paratroopers will be replacing the Givati Brigade, which has been in Gaza for the past several months and will begin four months of intensive training.