Terrorists on motorcycles: IDF simulates cross-border attacks in Gaza Division drill
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Terrorists on motorcycles: IDF simulates cross-border attacks in Gaza Division drill

Hundreds of soldiers take part in exercise in southern Israel to improve preparedness, ties with civilian forces

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

IDF troops conduct a training exercise near the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF troops conduct a training exercise near the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Hundreds of IDF troops conducted a large-scale exercise on the Gaza border Tuesday, testing the army’s preparedness against terror attacks emanating from the coastal enclave, including the possibility of gunmen on motorcycles, a military official said.

The drill, led by the IDF’s Gaza Division, included the evacuation of a school in the Eshkol region, as well as a test of how the army would respond to infiltrations into Israeli communities and to attacks on troops and military outposts near Gaza.

“It simulates a number of scenarios where the division would have to go from ‘routine’ to ’emergency,'” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One such scenario was derived from a real-life incident from the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operative Protective Edge, in which motorbikes were discovered in a cross-border attack tunnel.

Motorcycles discovered by IDF troops inside a tunnel crossing into Israel from Gaza on August 3, 2014. (Gadi Yampel/IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Motorcycles discovered by IDF troops inside a tunnel crossing into Israel from Gaza on August 3, 2014. (Gadi Yampel/IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

According to the IDF, those motorbikes were meant to be used to help terrorists kidnap Israeli civilians or security forces.

In the exercise, Israeli soldiers pretending to be Hamas terrorists used the vehicles to simulate an attack on an IDF base near Gaza, the army said.

A tank takes part in a training exercise near the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A tank takes part in a training exercise near the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The 11-hour exercise began at 2 a.m. and ended at approximately 1 in the afternoon. It was conducted in Gaza-adjacent communities throughout the area, “from Zikim to Kerem Shalom,” the official said, referring to a kibbutz just north of the Strip and another at its southern tip.

As part of the drill, from 4 to 5 a.m. some major roadways in the area were shut down to allow the army freedom of movement.

For security reasons, the officer would not detail exactly how many troops took part in the exercise, but said it numbered in the hundreds.

“The exercise is meant to improve the Gaza Division’s preparedness to switch from its day-to-day activities to emergency, as well as to improve the connection and partnership with the other forces working with us,” the official said.

Head of the Gaza Division Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fox, center, monitors a large-scale training exercise near the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Head of the Gaza Division Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fox, center, monitors a large-scale training exercise near the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

In addition to the hundreds of soldiers, police officers and local regional councils also took part in the exercise, he said, as did the air force and navy.

The IDF also conducted an exercise along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, including a test of the incoming rocket alert system.

As with all exercises, the army said the drills were not conducted in response to any particular incident or intelligence, but were scheduled long ago as part of its yearly training calendar.

The Gaza Strip has been relatively quiet of late. Though the army has captured a number of Gaza residents who crossed into Israel, it believes that many of these incidents have more to do with people trying to escape the Strip’s economic woes than to attempts to carry out terror attacks in Israel.

Rocket attacks have remained at about the same frequency — once a month or every other month — since the 2014 Gaza war.

However, though the situation may be calm today, Israel’s security forces say the Hamas terror group is hard at work rebuilding its supplies of materiel and fighters in preparation for an additional bout with the Jewish state.

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