IDF wraps up major northern drill amid Hezbollah threat
Israel Defense Forces troops during a military drill on the northern border, June 26, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The brigade-level exercise included “extreme scenarios” and “combat in complex and mountainous terrain,” according to the military.

By Akiva Van Koningsveld
June 27, 2024

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday concluded a large-scale combat exercise in the country’s north.

The exercise, which IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi attended on Wednesday, included “extreme scenarios, combat in complex and mountainous terrain, activating fire, and urban warfare” according to the military.

The exercise came only days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told local media that the IDF would redeploy “some forces” from the Gaza Strip to the north amid Hezbollah’s ongoing attacks from Lebanon.

The move is “primarily for defensive purposes, but also to bring all the residents of the north home,” he said. “If we can do it politically, that would be great. If not, we will do it in another way, but we will bring everyone back home—all the residents of the north and the south.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah has attacked Israel nearly every day since joining the war in support of Gaza-based Hamas on Oct. 8, killing more than 20 people and causing widespread damage. Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians remain internally displaced due to the ongoing violence.

Since Oct. 8, Hezbollah has fired more than 5,000 rockets, anti-tank missiles and suicide drones at Israeli border towns. Earlier this week, drones and anti-tank missile attacks on the eastern Galilee wounded three Israelis, two of whom were listed as being in serious condition.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu met with troops participating in the exercise, alongside IDF Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin.

“The brigade-level exercise is very impressive in terms of capabilities, mobilization and implementation,” he told troops. “The implementation is very considerable, with soldiers and commanders from all parts of the country and all parts of Israeli society. They are determined and devoted to the mission—to defend the country and achieve victory, nothing less.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife also went up north for a two-day visit, which included an overnight stay in the Galilee city of Safed.

“Michal and I decided to spend two days experiencing the situation for the residents of the north,” Herzog told locals on Wednesday. “I remind all of Israel that the displaced, the evacuees and all those who endure the fires and the flames are Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians alike,” he said.

“I reiterate what I have said before: The international community cannot act surprised if the situation spirals out of control, as the international community has almost done nothing to contribute to the full security of the residents of Israel, despite repeated violations of treaties and international agreements from Lebanon by Hezbollah,” he charged.

Last week, the IDF formally “authorized and validated” operational plans for a campaign aimed at pushing Hezbollah north of the Litani River, which was also the stated goal of 2006’s UNSC Resolution 1701.

In a video published on Saturday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed to fight the Jewish state “without restraints, without rules, without limits” should war be “imposed” on Lebanon. He has also threatened that “an invasion of the Galilee remains on the table.”

On Wednesday, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands called on their citizens to immediately leave Lebanon due to the conflict. Western embassies, particularly of European nations, are currently exploring plans to evacuate their nationals by sea, according to Lebanese reports.

During meetings in Washington this week, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stressed that while Jerusalem prefers a diplomatic solution, it could send Lebanon “back to the Stone Age” if the situation escalates further.

“We do not want war, but we are preparing for every scenario,” Gallant told reporters following meetings with U.S. officials on Wednesday.

Jerusalem has said that any political solution for the northern border “will not be an agreement on paper” but must include “the physical removal of Hezbollah from the border, and we will have to enforce it.”

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