In surprise drill, IDF simulates kidnapping, outbreak of violence in West Bank
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In surprise drill, IDF simulates kidnapping, outbreak of violence in West Bank

Units from across the military take part in 3-day exercise mimicking lead-up to 2014 Gaza war in army chief Aviv Kohavi’s fourth unannounced inspection

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

  • IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Head of the Central Command Tamir Yadai and senior officers from the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Head of the Central Command Tamir Yadai and senior officers from the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday completed a surprise exercise in the West Bank simulating a kidnapping and subsequent outbreak of violence throughout the region, a scenario similar to the deadly events that preceded the 2014 Gaza war.

Troops from four West Bank regional brigades, the Air Force, Military Intelligence, Teleprocessing Corps, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police took part in the three-day drill, the military said.

“The forces practiced a scenario of [violence] escalating following a kidnapping incident, of making an effort to locate and free the captives, making use of General Staff resources and examining inter-agency work methods,” the IDF said in a statement.

Alongside the exercise, the IDF carried out a series of raids around the city of Hebron, arresting dozens of Hamas members.

Israeli troops take part in a surprise exercise simulating a kidnapping in the West Bank in September 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The exercise was the fourth such surprise drill conducted by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

“Throughout the past week, we conducted an exercise that was long and exhaustive that brought together a series of preparations for operational plans in the case of an escalation of violence in Judea and Samaria,” the head of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, said in a statement, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

“Throughout the exercise, different scenarios were examined based on situational assessments and past events and readiness for events of the future. We are assessing the exercise with satisfaction from the preparedness and actions of the troops in the field, and with a number of topics that we must learn from and dig deeper into going forward,” Yadai said.

The surprise drill was launched on Tuesday. The military warned residents of the West Bank to expect to see additional troop movements and vehicular activity throughout the exercise.

Israeli soldiers begin a search operation in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on June 29, 2014. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)

The decision to simulate a kidnapping has its basis in reality. Indeed, two recent large-scale conflicts were sparked by kidnappings: the 2014 Gaza war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, and the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

The surprise inspection was Kohavi’s first so far this year. In September 2019, he tested the navy’s preparedness, and two months later ordered a surprise exercise in northern Israel simulating war with Hezbollah. In December the military launched a surprise cyber defense exercise simulating an attack that shuts down critical computer systems.

The military has come under fire in recent years with allegations that it is not prepared for a full-scale war.

These concerns were first raised publicly in 2018 by the former military ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, who accused the IDF of failing to abide by its own standards and of covering up its inadequacies.

The IDF initially denied Brick’s allegations outright, maintaining that it is at its highest level of preparedness for war in decades, but later acknowledged some shortcomings and said it was taking steps to improve its readiness.

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