IDF completes surprise drill in north with thousands of reservists
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IDF completes surprise drill in north with thousands of reservists

Military says unannounced exercise, the second under IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi, is meant to improve readiness for war

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Officers in the IDF Northern Command give a briefing to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, second from left, and other top officers during a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Officers in the IDF Northern Command give a briefing to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, second from left, and other top officers during a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Northern Command take part in a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday evening completed a two-day surprise military exercise in northern Israel, in which thousands of conscripted soldiers and reservists took part, the military said.

“The troops simulated the rapid turnover from everyday to emergency, from defense to attack; the processes of gathering troops and weapons; taking out equipment; and the movement of forces through the region,” the army said.

The surprise exercise began early Monday in the Jezreel Valley and Upper Galilee in northern Israel; it was meant to test the military’s readiness for the sudden outbreak of war in the north, specifically against the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies in the region.

“These past two days have helped us to make more precise the missions and goals in a defensive and offensive campaign,” said Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, commander of the Galil Division, who helped lead the exercise.

During the exercise, four rockets were fired from Syria at the Golan Heights and northern Galilee. They were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, the military said.

Israeli officials have recently warned that Iran appears to be taking increasingly aggressive actions in the Middle East, a situation that threatens to bring about a large regional conflict.

This week’s exercise was the second such surprise drill to be held in the Northern Command under IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, following criticism in the past two years that the military was not prepared for war.

Officers in the IDF Northern Command give a briefing to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, center, and other top officers during a surprise exercise in northern Israel in November 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops from the IDF Northern Command’s Ga’ash and Galil Divisions took part in the exercise, along with soldiers from the Air Force, Ground Forces, Military Intelligence, Teleprocessing Directorate and the Technology and Logistics Directorate.

In addition, thousands of reservists from the Etzioni Brigade and other reserve units were called up suddenly to participate in the exercise as they “expected to take part in the [Northern] Command’s missions during war-time,” the IDF said.

“We were called up from our homes, from work, all of us, the entire battalion, the entire brigade… in order to train and to be prepared to defend the communities in the north of the State of Israel,” said Lt. Col. Yakir Avida, commander of the Etzioni Brigade’s 9220 Battalion.

Large numbers of aircraft, vehicles and IDF troops took part in the drill, which was overseen by IDF Comptroller Lt. Gen. Ofer Sarig.

Israeli equipment is put on display as part of an IDF training program to prepare officers to fight against the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon in September 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

In September, the IDF completed a week-long training program for its senior combat officers in northern Israel, aimed at preparing them for a war against the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

That training session run by the IDF Northern Command’s 36th Division and the Golani Infantry Brigade included simulating conquering a Lebanese village, operating inside a Lebanese town, thwarting Hezbollah ambushes and destroying the terror group’s rockets and launchers, as well as tunnel warfare.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is seen by the IDF as one of its most formidable enemies, with an arsenal of rockets and missiles larger than that of most countries. Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006, though recent years have seen numerous cross-border exchanges of fire and Israel has targeted dozens of Hezbollah shipments in airstrikes in Lebanon and Syria.

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