With mock Lebanese village and VR goggles, IDF primes to fight Hezbollah

Military holds week-long training session aimed at preparing senior commanders for battles in Lebanon

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday completed a week-long training program for its senior combat officers aimed at preparing them for a war against the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, providing them with the latest intelligence, fighting methods and operational plans.

The training session included simulating conquering a Lebanese village, operating inside a Lebanese town, thwarting Hezbollah ambushes and destroying the terror group’s rockets and launchers, as well as tunnel warfare.

Hezbollah is seen by the IDF as one of its most formidable enemies, with an arsenal of rockets and missiles larger than that of most countries.

Both Israel and Lebanon had a small taste of what a conflict between the two sides would look earlier this month, when there was a limited skirmish along the Lebanese border on September 1, in which the terror group fired anti-tank guided missiles at Israeli positions, causing no injuries. The attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian-controlled base in Syria several days prior that killed two Hezbollah members. The IDF retaliated with strikes on Hezbollah positions.

All IDF officers from combat units above the rank of lieutenant colonel participated in the training session, the army said.

“The purpose of this session was to act as a base of knowledge for brigade and battalion commanders to train their soldiers in the most accurate and deadly way possible for possible fighting in Lebanon,” the military said.

IDF officers tour a mock Hezbollah attack tunnel as part of a training program in September 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The session was held at the IDF’s Elyakim base in northern Israel. It was run by the IDF Northern Command’s 36th Division and the Golani Infantry Brigade.

For this program, the base’s shooting ranges were turned into stand-ins for a Lebanese village, complete with actors in costumes simulating residents.

“At this station, the [participating commanders] were presented with a story of the village by actors — the daily routines of the civilian residents, including buying things in the market, prayers in the mosque, kids playing in the streets, students learning in school, as well as the routines of the enemy forces inside the village, the locations of weaponry, the deployment of fighters, and more,” the army said.

An Israeli actor dressed up as a Lebanese woman sits next to a tunnel opening in a mock Lebanese village as part of an IDF training program in September 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

In addition to conducting practical exercises, the participating officers also drilled fighting in Lebanon by utilizing advanced technology, including virtual reality headsets and large tabletop 3D touch screens showing troop movements and battles.

IDF officers monitor touch screens simulating war against the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon as part of a training program in September 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The week-long program was part of a new effort by the IDF Ground Forces, which is responsible for training infantry, tanks and artillery units, to write a new doctrine — referred to in the military as Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, or by its acronym TTP — for fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Analysts both inside and out of the Israeli military expect that a war with the terror group would see Hezbollah rain down huge numbers of projectiles on the entire country, causing widespread death and destruction, while the IDF would retaliate with powerful strikes on Hezbollah positions, which are generally embedded deep within civilian populations.

Israel has fought two wars in Lebanon, one in 1982 against Palestinian terrorist groups and the second in 2006 against Hezbollah. The Second Lebanon War is seen in the IDF as having suffered a large number of failures and poor management, brought on by communication issues and insufficient preparation for war.

Israeli equipment is put on display as part of an IDF training program to prepare officers to fight against the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon in September 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

These deficiencies have served as benchmarks for improvement over the interim 13 years.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah group, with its massive rocket arsenal and its thousands of fighters, who are well-trained from fighting in Syria, is generally seen as the standard by which the IDF measures its preparedness.

While Israeli military officers often discuss a future conflict with Hezbollah as a matter of “when, not if,” assessments by the IDF say that the terror group is not currently interested in renewed warfare with Israel.

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