The army conducted a massive drill over the last week which was designed to train soldiers for combat operations in topographical conditions similar to those in Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.
The exercise was the largest one carried out by the 401st Brigade of the Armored Corps in recent years, according to Channel 12 news. The soldiers carried out drills in coordination with the Israeli Air Force, as well as the engineering and intelligence corps.
Dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopters were deployed in the training zone in the Jordan Valley, the IDF said.
The brigade’s commander, Col. Dudu Sonago, said that Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have gained extensive experience and have developed more sophisticated battle techniques after fighting in neighboring Syria’s civil war, at the same time as deepening entrenchment above and below ground in Syria.
“As the situation in Syria stabilizes, Hezbollah is returning its forces to Lebanon,” Sonago said. “They are no longer a guerrilla organization, but a real army. They fought there in regiments of companies and battalions, very similar to the military,” he told Channel 12.
“They operate in civilian areas and are ready with a large quantity of anti-tank missiles,” Sonago added. “This is a challenge the IDF must train for.”
נסראללה בלחץ? חטיבה 401 של חיל השריון ביצעה השבוע תרגיל גדול שנועד לדמות לחימה בלבנון, ובו התאמנו הלוחמים על תיאום עם כוחות של חיל האוויר, ההנדסה והמודיעין | צפו בתיעוד מהאימון @ndvori
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) February 15, 2019
The exercise comes as tensions between Israel and Lebanon have heightened in recent months after the Israeli military launched an operation to locate and destroy Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels reaching into the country.
The IDF has said the tunnels were to be used by Hezbollah to smuggle fighters into Israel as part of an opening salvo in a future war.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah later dismissed the effectiveness of the Israeli operation, which it wrapped up in January, and said the terror group’s plan to invade northern Israel remained intact.
Nasrallah has also hit back at Israel earlier this month over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of Lebanon over the inclusion of the Iran-backed organization in the country’s new government.
On Tuesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri indicated the new government would allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons, which it used in a major war against Israel in 2006 and have been frequently used since to threaten Israel.
Under UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah, Lebanon committed to disarming the Iran-backed terror group.
Agencies contributed to this report.