IDF Launches Surprise Live-fire Drill in Golan Heights

The drill, to include Northern Command, Central Command, and Air Force troops, is meant to test the IDF’s readiness for an ‘emergency situation.’

The Israel Defense Forces General Staff launched a comprehensive surprise drill on Wednesday, which will include the airlifting of forces to the Golan Heights and a live fire exercise, set to take place later in the evening.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz notified the units involved in the drill overnight, as the drill is meant to test the level of preparation of various units, including the Northern Command, Central Command, Air Force, and others.
The units involved specialize in offensive firepower, and for this reason they were chosen to participate in the drill, meant to test their readiness for an emergency situation.

The drill itself is expected to end in the evening, and is being overseen by the IDF’s Chief Artillery Officer, Brig. Gen. Roei Riftin, and is part of IDF efforts to examine the quality of operations, led by the IDF comptroller.

The drill was planned ahead of time and does not suggest the IDF has raised its level of preparation. However, such a test of the IDF’s ability to move a large number of forces from the Central Command to the Golan Heights, by way of helicopters, and to hold a comprehensive live-fire drill, examines the IDF’s ability to launch a serious military operation or even go to war.

A similar surprise drill was held on Yom Kippur Eve last year, involving two IDF divisions, which focused on testing the level of preparation for reserve units for emergency call-ups. Last year’s drill involved the emergency call-up of two reserve combat companies from the Central Command. Then, an IDF official said that holding the drill right before Yom Kippur was “more than a coincidence.”

Last week, the IDF began work on reinforcing the fence on the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights. Plans drafted by the IDF Northern Command call for placing dozens of new information-gathering sensors along the fence, electrifying parts of it so that it will warn of intruders, and laying mines along parts of the border.

Over the years, severe weather in the Golan Heights has battered the fence to the point where in certain places, it barely exists.

The Northern Command's main concern is the possibility that terrorists will try to launch a cross-border attack on IDF soldiers or on Israeli communities in the Golan. The army's assumption is that the deteriorating situation in Syria is liable to lead to an increase in terrorist activity near the border. Army sources said the volume of attempts to penetrate the border has already increased.