Amid Israeli threats to attack Iran's nuclear installations and fears of a retaliatory strike by the Ayatollah regime in Tehran, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz ordered a number of units to conduct an unplanned exercise early Wednesday to test the army's readiness and alert level.
Forces from the Central and Northern Commands, Air Force and other units are taking part in the drill. A large number of regular army and reserve soldiers received surprising telephone calls from their units overnight Wednesday, ordering them to attend the exercise.
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The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said Gantz wants to test the readiness and fitness of a number of units specializing in offensive firepower, particularly the Artillery Corps. During the exercise, which is simulating a surprise war in the Golan Heights, Central Command forces will be flown by choppers to the Golan Heights to take part in a live-fire drill in the afternoon.
Gantz during army drill (Archive photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office)
The IDF Spokesperson's Office stressed that the exercise was planned in advance and does not suggest the army has raised its level of alert.
"This drill is part of a routine program of checks and surprise exercises held throughout the year by the IDF comptroller. It is being held under the command of Brig.-Gen. Roee Riptin, who is the chief artillery officer," the IDF Spokesman's Unit said.
However, it should be noted that the exercise is taking place only a week after the Golani Brigade conducted an even more extensive exercise near the Lebanese border.
Wednesday's drill was launched at a time when senior IDF officers, including Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Naveh, warn of a possible escalation of violence in Syria that may lead to war. The security establishment's fears are based on the possibility that al-Qaeda and global jihad-inspired terror organizations will base themselves in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights with the aim of carrying out attacks in Israel against soldiers or civilians.
The second scenario, which may result in an Israeli strike, involves the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Against this backdrop, the IDF recently launched an unprecedented operation to increase security on the Syrian border. The "facelift" is meant to ensure that the barrier on the border, set up nearly 40 years ago, will remain impenetrable.
Two weeks ago, forces in the Golan Heights started working on a project to massively upgrade the barrier which stretches over tens of kilometers. The efforts will include setting up a new fence, deploying an advanced alert system to replace the old one and significantly improve the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps' observations layout.
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