The drill focused on tactics and lessons from the last conflict in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, according to Capt. Noam Karavani from the 601st Combat engineering battalion of the 40th armored brigade, with soldiers taking part training inside tunnels as well as in urban and open areas.
According to Karavani, the troops used new technology and new techniques during the drill, many of them geared toward the threat posed by tunnels dug by terror groups in the Strip.
“There were two parts to the drill,” Karavani said. “One near Kibbutz Ofakim, and one in Tze’elim,” with the drill training officers “to deal with the mental challenges of war, of how they think professionally in order to win, and test[ing] how troops will face the challenges of the battlefield.”
The exercise at the Tze’elim base in southern Israel allowed troops to simulate war in an urban environment similar to neighborhoods in the densely populated Strip.
“It really made me proud to see how the soldiers dealt with their challenges, physical and mental,” Karavani told The Jerusalem Post. “They walked all throughout the night with weight on their back through dunes, and the next day continued to work. Without a doubt we are ready to win the next war.
“It’s quiet now, but everything happens underground on the other side that we don’t always see,” the captain said. “We aren’t only training for when it’s loud, but also for when it’s quiet, so that they are never able to surprise us.”
That, he continued with confidence, is not a problem. “They don’t have any more surprises,” said Karavani. “We know everything, even what he is thinking we have an answer…drones, underground. There’s nothing we aren’t ready for.”
While the IDF maintains that these exercises were planned in advance as part of the annual training program, they come as tensions remain high along the border. On Tuesday, a military reconnaissance drone crashed in the central Gaza Strip after it was reportedly shot down by a Palestinian terror group. The IDF confirmed that the Skylark drone crashed but did not say what brought it down, stressing that there was no risk of any intelligence being compromised.
Built by Elbit Systems and operated by the artillery corps, the Skylark is the IDF’s smallest drone at just over two meters. Operating on all fronts for tactical surveillance, it can be put together in under 15 minutes and launched by one or two soldiers, who operate it from rooftops or in armored personnel carriers using a live-video feed once airborne. As relatively cheap and simple platform, there have been several crashes since it was introduced to ground forces in 2010, including a crash in October due to a technical malfunction.
Last week Hamas conducted a surprise military drill across Gaza simulating the capture of IDF special forces operating in the enclave. The drill saw the mobilization of police, intelligence units, troops from the terror group’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades as well as reserve personnel. According to a statement released by Hamas, the drill came “due to attempts by enemies to undermine security and public order.”