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IDF trains for fighting Hezbollah on Lebanese border in large two-day drill

‘Thunderstorm’ exercise comes amid growing belief in the military that the Shiite terror group will likely attempt attacks along the frontier in the coming year

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

A helicopter flies during an exercise simulating fighting on the Lebanese border in northern Israel on February 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
A helicopter flies during an exercise simulating fighting on the Lebanese border in northern Israel on February 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command held a large-scale exercise along the northern border this week simulating a war in Lebanon, amid lingering tensions with the Hezbollah terror group.

The drill, dubbed “Thunderstorm,” tested the Northern Command’s ability to rapidly respond to outbreaks of violence on the border, the military said.

The exercise came a week after Hezbollah fired anti-aircraft missiles at an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon and amid warnings from Military Intelligence that the terror group may attempt to launch attacks on the border in the coming year.

The exercise was held in northern Israel over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday. Ground troops from the Northern Command took part in the exercise alongside the Israeli Air Force and Navy, the Teleprocessing Corps, the Cyber Defense and the Intelligence Directorate, as well as the Israel Police.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, center, speaks with commander of the Galilee Division, Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, during an exercise simulating fighting on the Lebanese border in northern Israel on February 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

“IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the exercise [on Wednesday] and checked the preparedness of troops in the field for scenarios involving defense and offense, mostly operational incidents that break out on the border, a build-up of forces, rapidly using artillery and defending communities in the north,” the IDF said.

The drill also tested the IDF’s new system to coordinate attacks, known as “Ring of Fire,” the military said.

“During the exercise, the lessons learned from recent operational incidents on the Lebanese border were checked, battle plans were refined and operational plans preparing for the possibility of multiple days of fighting and cooperation between intelligence collection, the air force, intelligence and artillery were simulated,” the IDF said in a statement.

Israeli troops take part in an exercise simulating fighting on the Lebanese border in northern Israel on February 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF Northern Command has been on high alert along the Lebanese border since July 20, 2020, when a Hezbollah operative was killed in Syria in an airstrike attributed to Israel. The terror group vowed revenge and attempted to exact it with two sniper attacks over the summer, but failed both times. The military still believes that Hezbollah plans to carry out an attack on the border in retaliation for the death of its member.

“The exercise we held has contributed greatly to improving our preparedness against the terror army Hezbollah. We will continue to step up the readiness of our troops and headquarters for days of fighting, to learn and improve, from an understanding the need for rapid offensive action and creativity on the battlefield,” the commander of the Galilee Division, Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, said in a statement.

Israeli troops take part in an exercise simulating fighting on the Lebanese border in northern Israel on February 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which maintains an arsenal of some 190,000 rockets and mortar shells, is considered the most significant military threat to the IDF.

Israel fought against the terror group in numerous operations throughout the years and in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

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