IDF launches ‘Southern Storm’ training exercise on Gaza border

Drill meant to ‘improve preparedness’ and check that forces internalized the takeaways from May’s 11-day conflict, military says

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

Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border near Sderot on August 24, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
Illustrative. Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border near Sderot on August 24, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces launched a two-day exercise simulating war in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, to test how well the military learned the lessons from May’s conflict against terror groups in the enclave.

The drill — dubbed Southern Storm — will include a variety of scenarios for Israeli forces to counter, including surprise attacks by terror groups from the Strip, in order to better prepare the IDF Southern Command and Gaza Division for war, the military said.

“As part of the exercise, there will be noticeable movement of security forces and vehicles, explosions will be heard in the area, and roadblocks will be set up on a number of roadways in the area near the border,” the IDF said, clarifying that these would be simulated checkpoints only and that the roads would be open to civilians.

The military said the exercise was planned in advance as part of the 2021 training schedule, but with a focus on May’s conflict, known by Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls.

“The exercise is meant to improve IDF troops’ preparedness to defend the area around the Gaza Strip, and it will test the way in which the lessons from Operation Guardian of the Walls were integrated, while putting troops through many possible offensive scenarios by terror groups in the Gaza Strip, including surprise scenarios,” the IDF said.

Israel fought a punishing 11-day conflict with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups, in the Gaza Strip in May, after Hamas fired six rockets toward Jerusalem in response to clashes that took place in the city at the time. Thirteen people were killed in Israel during the fighting — 12 civilians and one soldier — and some 250 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, roughly half of them terrorist operatives.

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