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5 Sep, 2017 13:19

Israel Army stages mock war against Hezbollah, biggest exercise in 20yrs

Israel Army stages mock war against Hezbollah, biggest exercise in 20yrs

The Israeli Army is launching its largest drill in 20 years, simulating a war with Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. Tens of thousands of soldiers are expected to take part in the massive exercise, according to military sources.

The ‘Light of the Grain’ drill, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, will last 10 days and will simulate “scenarios we'll be facing in the next confrontation with Hezbollah,” a defense source said on Monday, as quoted by AFP. 

It will include a scenario of instant escalation, in which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have to defend Israel against multiple infiltrations in the north, Haaretz reported

That scenario will specifically include ‘terrorists’ entering moshav Shavei Tzion, 15km from the Lebanese border, while ‘Hezbollah’ stages an attack by Gesher Benot Yaakov in the Golan Heights.

The ‘terrorists’ will be using “flags and enemy uniforms, fake weapons, fake explosive belts and more,” an army official told the Times of Israel. Such costumes and props are part of a new army program known as ‘Red Containers’.

The IDF will also practice an attack on Lebanon and the evacuation of Israeli towns by the border in preparation for heavy missile attacks.

The army's elite Yahalom combat engineering units will take part in the exercise by disarming bombs, crossing waterways, uncovering hidden weapons caches, and fighting in tunnels similar to the type Israel believes Hezbollah has dug in Lebanon.

Tens of thousands of soldiers from dozens of divisions, including thousands of reserves, are set to take part in the drills. That number is “unprecedented,” the army official told the Times of Israel. 

Aircraft, boats, and submarines are being deployed for the drills, and IDF's canine unit will also participate in the exercise, which will be overseen by the IDF's Northern Command, according to AFP's sources.

The army will also set up two field hospitals and test unmanned trucks and helicopters to evacuate casualties.

The navy and air force will also take part in the exercise, along with the military's cyber units, which will for the first time in a large-scale exercise simulate the “cyber arena” by engaging in electronic warfare and defending its networks, the Times of Israel reported.

The purpose of the exercise is to “vanquish” Hezbollah, a top IDF officer told Haaretz, with another senior officer explaining to that “vanquish” means to “badly hurt the infrastructure of that enemy and to reduce rocket fire,” citing the chief of staff.

Israel views Hezbollah – which has a suspected arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and thousands of fighters – as its central threat.

Israeli officials have raised concerns in recent months over increased Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon, along with plans for an Iranian missile factory to provide the group with more accurate rockets. They have also raised alarm over a ceasefire in southern Syria, which they say allows Iran to gain a foothold along Israel's northern border, according to the Times of Israel.

Despite those concerns, the IDF says the planned exercise is not in response to Iran's or Hezbollah's current activities in the region.

The large-scale drills will be the biggest exercise held by the Israeli army since 1998, when it simulated a war with the Syrian Army for a week.

The launch of the exercise comes just one week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the UN of treating Israel unfairly by not doing enough to curb arms deliveries to Hezbollah, which he says is seeking the destruction of the Jewish state.