Gallant warns of unprecedented challenges for home front in threatened war with Iran

Visit by defense minister to Home Front Command comes as IDF carries out major drill simulating multifront conflict

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) sits with the chief of the IDF Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Rafi Milo, at the unit's headquarters in Ramle, June 5, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) sits with the chief of the IDF Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Rafi Milo, at the unit's headquarters in Ramle, June 5, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Monday that Israel will face unprecedented challenges during the next potential war with Iran and its various proxies, such as Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

“If, God forbid, a war occurs, the Israeli home front is expected to face challenges the likes of which we have never known in our 75 years of existence. This requires us to be prepared in advance, with optimal preparation,” said Gallant in remarks provided by his office.

Gallant made the comments on a visit to the IDF Home Front Command headquarters in the central city of Ramle, as the military conducted a large-scale, two-week drill simulating a multifront war.

“The function of the home front, at all its levels, has great importance and a decisive role. As in any arena, even on the home front, we are committed to thorough and early preparations, for optimal performance in an emergency,” Gallant said.

“We must prepare for the most severe scenarios, in which we will have to face many challenges. Only the successful functioning of the home front… will allow the IDF and the defense establishment to fulfill the tasks on the frontier,” he added.

On May 29, the Israel Defense Forces launched the large-scale, two-week drill across the country — dubbed Firm Hand — involving troops from the standing and reserve army, from nearly all units. The exercises are mostly focused on Israel’s northern frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, as well as Iran.

IDF Artillery Corps and an Iron Dome air defense system are seen near the border with Lebanon, in northern Israel, April 6, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The IDF said that during the drill, troops would “practice handling challenges and sudden events on multiple fronts simultaneously.” The military warned that there would be a noted increase in security forces and aircraft across the country during the drill.

The drill has included the Air Force conducting simulated “strategic” strikes deep in enemy territory in an all-out war scenario, and the Navy carrying out mock offensive and defensive actions, according to a military source.

On Sunday night, the high-level security cabinet convened at the military’s main operational command bunker in Tel Aviv to simulate decision-making by the political echelon during a potential multifront war.

While the drill and the cabinet meeting were pre-planned, they came during escalated tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli warnings that a broad conflict could break out over the issue.

Tehran has been ramping up nuclear development since 2018, when the US unilaterally withdrew from a landmark pact that had capped enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief.

Talks to revive the nuclear deal fell apart last year, but recent reports have indicated steps to possibly renew the diplomatic initiative, sparking Israeli concerns that a new deal could legitimize Iran’s nuclear activity and erode international support for potential military action.

Members of Israel’s security cabinet convene for a mock assessment at the IDF’s main underground command center in Tel Aviv, amid a major drill, June 4, 2023. (Hain Zach/GPO)

Israel has continued to warn against such an agreement in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gallant and IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi adding to fevered saber-rattling already taking place between the countries.

At Sunday’s meeting, Netanyahu said Israel was “committed to acting against the Iranian nuclear program, against missile attacks on the State of Israel and against the possibility of the convergence of the arenas, what we call a multifront campaign.”

“This requires us to consider, if it is possible to consider in advance, some of the key decisions the cabinet and the government of Israel will have to make together with the defense establishment… this is the purpose of the exercise,” he said.

“We are sure and confident that we can deal with any threat on our own, and also with other means,” he added.

Last year, the IDF held its largest drill in decades. The four-week-long exercise — called Chariots of Fire — also focused on sudden events erupting in multiple theaters at the same time, while mostly dealing with fighting the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In light of the lack of progress regarding a return by Iran to the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, the IDF has ramped up efforts over the past two years to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear sites.

During the Chariots of Fire drill last year, dozens of Air Force fighter jets conducted air maneuvers over the Mediterranean Sea, simulating striking Iranian nuclear facilities.

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