The IDF's Combat Engineering Corps held a drill testing its Caterpillar D9 bulldozers on Tuesday, indicating that while calm has been restored to Israel's southern communities, the army remains on alert.
"Terror groups' capabilities are greater than they were in the past, but we have learned our lesson and improved our capabilities as well," Captain Moshe Yakobovich, who commands the Gaza Northern Brigade's Mechanical Engineering Equipment Company, told Ynet.
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This was the first exercise for the company, which became operational over a year ago. The troops used the heavy machinery to practice opening safe routes for infantry and armored infantry units and dealing with land mines, roadside bombs, antitank missiles and mortar shell barrages. The drill took place at the Tzeelim base.
Combat Engineering Corps' equipment (Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)
The IDF is bracing for the possibility that the next operation in the Gaza Strip might meet a response more violent than what Operation Cast Lead had seen. To prepare for such a scenario, the bulldozers have been equipped with innovative protective equipment, including antitank missile alert systems.
"On a daily basis we deal with opening safe routes, clearing territories and building defensive posts for our forces," Yakobovich said. "This time we practiced operating at nighttime... while staying in the field for a long period of time."
'Shalit capture motivated tunnel construction'
The Gaza Division's engineering officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Yaron Malka, noted that the special exercise has been planned a year in advance.
"The engineering equipment will be the first to enter Gaza and the last to leave, as it has been done in the past," he said. "This is why it's very important to maintain commanders and operators well trained."
Alongside the heavy machinery, the Engineering Corps has also been working on its minor tactics warfare, especially when it comes to one of the primary threats that the Gaza Strip poses – the territory's network of tunnels. Army officials estimate that Hamas, which for years has been using the underground pathways for smuggling purposes, has also dug dozens of tunnels for long-range attacks. These channels could harbor terrorists aiming to ambush IDF troops.
Since technology that detects these tunnels has yet to be developed, the IDF must rely on Sayeret Samur, a commando unit, to do the job.
"Gilad Shalit's abduction, which was done using a tunnel, has motivated (terror) groups to dig more tunnels," an army sources said. "Such a pathway can appear out of the ground at any given moment."
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