'Troops unprepared' for new violence

IDF officers are concerned that the current generation of soldiers, yet to face real war, will not be prepared for battles to come.

With predictions that Israel is on the verge of a new round of Palestinian violence in the West Bank, senior IDF officers are beginning to voice concern, The Jerusalem Post has learned, that the current armed forces, yet to face real war, will not be mentally prepared for the battles to come. A majority of today's troops, a high-ranking IDF officer told the Post this week, were of a "different generation and breed" than those who fought during the peak of the intifada and in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. "Today's soldiers don't have the same conscience that others had in the past, telling them to sacrifice themselves and risk their lives for the country," the officer said. "This could end up being problematic when today's soldiers are stuck in a foxhole in the middle of Nablus under heavy gunfire." Fearing refusals and the mental breakdown of infantry troops, the IDF has begun sending units to lectures by social workers and psychologists from the IDF's Behavioral Sciences Unit. In addition, company commanders have begun holding one-on-one talks with their subordinates. The IDF, and particularly the Central Command, has also begun sending units to urban warfare compounds to prepare them for the tough operations expected in cities like Nablus and Jenin if a third intifada erupted. Recently, a unit commander and sergeant from the elite Duvdevan undercover unit were barred from serving in command posts after they refused to participate in a November raid in Jenin. Sparking an internal IDF debate regarding psychological assistance for elite units, the commander claimed his soldiers had refused to participate in the raid only after their request for psychological help had been rejected. "0It will be difficult for today's soldiers to deal with an escalation in Palestinian violence," the high-ranking officer said. "We need to come up with simulations that will create the right balance and tension needed to prepare the soldiers for combat situations." The Duvdevan case, the officer said, represented a growing trend among today's combat soldiers who - not used to intense warfare - have begun asking for psychological assistance during their army service on a more frequent basis. Meanwhile Thursday, IDF artillery cannons pounded Kassam launch sites in the northern Gaza Strip after at least four Kassam rockets were fired at Israel. One rocket landed at sea and three others near Kibbutz Netiv Ha'asara. No injuries or damage were caused. Since the beginning of Pessah, over 35 Kassams were fired at Israel. Also Thursday, an elite Border Police unit caught Ziad Mahmoud Nuara - a senior Tanzim activist from Bethlehem - suspected of selling arms to terror groups.