The Israeli army conducted a surprise exercise this week to test its ability to respond to a Hezbollah terror attack, underlining fears that a single incident could snowball into all-out war.
The exercise tested only the army’s conscripted forces — not reservists — and focused on the response of the infantry, with help from the air force, according to a senior IDF official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The point of the surprise drill was not to see how Israel would fight a war with Hezbollah, but rather how it would react to the outbreak of one, the senior officer said.
“It’s about a fast switch from routine to a situation that’s not routine, where you’re preparing for it to be something else,” she said.
The army officer would not specify what scenario sparked the simulated war on Sunday, saying only that it was “Hezbollah carrying out a terror attack against our troops.”
Once the “attack” took place, troops swarmed to the northern border for the two-day exercise. The participants were soldiers currently stationed in the 769th and 300th Regional Brigades of the Northern Command’s 91st Division, as well as troops from the Golani Infantry Brigade, the Commando Brigade and some other special forces units, the official said.
“[The soldiers] were spread out throughout the country, from the West Bank and the Southern Command, and [troops] that were training in the Golan Heights. They all came to the 91st,” she said.
“Some came in vehicles, others were flown in,” the officer said.
In order to transport soldiers, the air force provided both Hercules planes and helicopters. The air force also carried out mock reconnaissance missions for the exercise, she said.
While the results of the exercise are still being evaluated as of Monday night, the officer said the army was seeing it as “successful,” but with lessons to be learned.
The drill was monitored by the army ombudsman and a crew of dozens of his soldiers. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other members of the General Staff visited while the exercise was in progress, in order to meet with the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, the head of the 91st Division, Amir Baram, and other top officers who took part in it.
During his visit, Eiesnkot discussed the need for exercises like it, telling the other officers: “The way to prevent war is to ensure your preparedness.”
Following the exercise, the Northern Command went back to “routine,” the officer said.
The senior IDF official stressed that this exercise, though a surprise for the participants, was planned in advance and was not in response to any specific threat.