The Israeli military is planning to hold its largest paratroop exercise in years later in 2018, amid heightened tensions on both the southern and northern borders.
The whole of the Paratroopers Brigade will parachute in full gear, including heavy weapons, as part of the exercise. The drill is the largest since 2012, according to the Haaretz daily, and will be the first major paratrooper drill to incorporate the large C-130J transport plane, which Israel first put into service in 2014.
Known as the Super Hercules in the US and as the Samson locally, the plane can be refueled in midair, can fly 30 percent farther than the Rhino, which carried Israeli commandos and vehicles during the famous 1976 raid on Entebbe’s airport, and can carry 25% more weight – in vehicles, paratroopers, ground forces and wounded soldiers.
The exercise, slated for sometime in the spring or summer, will take place in the south, where the potential for another war with Hamas has loomed of late. It also comes amid rising tension on the borders with Syria and Lebanon, where Israel has been seeking to prevent an Iranian entrenchment.
In a speech last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that a future conflict with Lebanon would likely involve ground forces.
“If a conflict does break out in the north, ‘boots on the ground’ remains an option. We won’t allow scenes like in 2006, where we saw citizens of Beirut at the beach while Israelis in Tel Aviv sat in shelters,” Liberman said.
Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF major general and a member of the security cabinet, warned on Saturday that Israel would sent Lebanon “back to the stone age” should the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror group take military action.
“The Iranians are flooding the Middle East,” Galant told Channel 10 news. “They took southern Lebanon using Hezbollah, and are trying to take over Syria under Russian wings. The process of turning Syria into a battlefront is dangerous and we will not stand by. We have clear [red] lines.”
Meanwhile, the IDF on Saturday began an exercise meant to prepare the southern command and ground forces for emergency. The army said it was a routine drill planned in advance as part of the 2018 schedule, and will end on Wednesday.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.