The army on Monday laid the cornerstone of a new training facility in the Golan Heights that is meant to simulate a Lebanese village of the type Israeli soldiers might find themselves in should war break out with the Hezbollah terrorist group.
The Snir facility, which gets its name from a nearby kibbutz, is meant to prepare Israeli soldiers for urban warfare, including subterranean combat, according to Brig. Gen. Einav Shalev, commander of the army’s Ground Forces Division. (This is not to be confused with the Ground Forces itself, which is led by Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak.)
The army plans to have the training center ready for soldiers by the end of next year and construct three similar facilities in the coming years, a senior IDF official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Snir facility will take over as the army’s most advanced urban combat training center — “we have nothing like this in the State of Israel,” the officer said — superseding the Urban Combat Center, which was built a decade ago, in the Tzeelim training base in southern Israel.
Unlike the Urban Combat Center (often referred to by its Hebrew acronym Mali), which can only be used to train infantry soldiers, the new Snir facility is designed to allow for the Armored Corps and Combat Engineering Corps to operate their heavy tanks and engineering vehicles in the mock Lebanese village, the senior officer said.
“We understand that in a future conflict, tanks will enter Lebanese villages to take out terrorists positions. Our Armored Corps needs to be ready to operate in a rubble-filled urban environment, for example,” the army said.
The Snir facility will include underground elements as well. Hezbollah is known to have subterranean bunkers and tunnels, though not of the border-crossing variety that Hamas is believed to possess.
In a statement following the groundbreaking ceremony, Shalev called the plan to build the new urban combat centers “nothing less than a revolution,” as IDF soldiers will get ever closer to the true experience of war.
“[Snir] is a Lebanese village, showing the Lebanese challenge, which is growing greater; showing the Lebanese enemy (Hezbollah), which is developing. In the village, there are people acting as enemy fighters, who are very close to the types of threats that we expect from Hezbollah in the next round,” the senior IDF officer said.
“We’re studying [Hezbollah’s tactics] closely. We’re preparing troops to dress like Hezbollah, to act like Hezbollah, to think like Hezbollah,” he said.
The army plans to construct the three additional urban combat training centers in the next six years, two in the Jordan Valley and one in southern Israel.
The Snir facility will be built by the M+W Group, a German construction company.
“By chance, it will be built by the same company that built the Mali, but with totally different requirements,” the senior officer said.
The Mali facility in Tzeelim is not only used by the IDF, but is rented out to visiting militaries who are looking to practice urban combat.
According to the senior official, the Mali facility will also be renovated in the coming years.
The officer stressed that while the new Snir facility will be impressive on its own, “it’s only one of four. It’s very important, but it’s only the first.”