Testing troops’ readiness, IDF launches drill along Lebanon border

‘Sunbeam’ exercise comes amid rising tensions after Iran blamed for deadly drone attack on oil tanker; military says training will apply lessons learned in recent Gaza war

An IDF military outpost on the border between Israel and Lebanon, July 20, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
An IDF military outpost on the border between Israel and Lebanon, July 20, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces will hold an exercise along the northern border starting Monday night, simulating fighting with the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The drill, dubbed “Sunbeam,” aims to test the readiness of soldiers during a potential escalation with the Iran-backed terror group that could last a number of days, the military said.

The IDF added that during the exercise, forces will examine ways of applying lessons learned from the recent military conflict in Gaza with Palestinian terrorists.

Israel and Hamas concluded 11 days of fighting in May during which the terror group launched some 4,300 rockets at Israeli cities and towns, and Israel launched hundreds of retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

During May’s fighting, as well as last month, a number of rockets were launched from Lebanon into northern Israel. The military assessed the rockets had been launched by a local Palestinian group, not by Hezbollah.

However, Hezbollah maintains tight control over southern Lebanon, making it unlikely that such attacks would be conducted from this area without at least its tacit approval.

The military said the implementation of lessons learned from the 11-day war in the upcoming drill in northern Israel was part of a joint investigation and learning process with the military’s Gaza Division.

The army said it was a routine drill planned in advance as part of the 2021 schedule, and will end on Tuesday afternoon.

Rockets are launched by Palestinian terror groups into Israel, amid Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The drill comes amid increased tensions in the region, after an oil tanker managed by an Israeli-owned company was struck by a drone, apparently by Iran, last week.

Two people were killed on board the Mercer Street oil tanker — a British and a Romanian national. Thursday’s drone attack was blamed on Iran by Israel, the US, the UK and Romania.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi spoke with his British counterpart, Sir Nick Carter, on Sunday. “The two discussed recent events in the region and common challenges faced by both countries,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

Without providing a source, Channel 12 news reported that the two agreed to share intelligence efforts as well as coordinate a response toward Iran, saying such cooperation on the Islamic Republic was unprecedented.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah, which maintains an arsenal of some 140,000 rockets and mortar shells, is considered the most significant military threat to the IDF.

Illustrative: Hezbollah fighters attend the funeral procession on May 15, 2021, of their comrade Mohammed Tahhan who was shot dead by Israeli forces along the Lebanon-Israel border, in the southern village of Adloun, Lebanon. (AP Photo/ Mohammed Zaatari)

With these, should a war break out, the IDF believes Hezbollah could fire 1,000 to 3,000 rockets and missiles every day for at least the first week of fighting. (In comparison, Hezbollah fired roughly 4,000 rockets in total during the entire 34-day Second Lebanon War in 2006, which was at the time an unprecedented level of attack.)

However, earlier this year, the military assessed that Hezbollah would likely initiate more limited rounds of violence, rather than full-scale war, as it previously assessed.

Israel fought against the terror group in numerous operations throughout the years.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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