As tensions mount on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, the Israel Defense Forces said it will hold a wide-scale drill simulating a ground operation in the coastal enclave.
The Israeli military pounded Gaza over the weekend as Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists fired 200 mortar shells and rockets on Israeli border communities. The Iron Dome missile-defense system intercepted 30 projectiles headed toward residential areas, while the rest hit opens areas on both sides of the border, the IDF said.
Egypt was eventually able to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the terrorist groups, which came into effect on 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The military said that the Southern Command’s 162nd Division, which was scheduled to hold a wide-scale exercise simulating a ground incursion of Gaza City, has been ordered to go ahead with the drill.
Located at the heart of the coastal enclave, Gaza City is home to more than 500,000 people, making it the biggest city in the Gaza Strip.
As part of the exercise, Armored, Infantry, Engineering and Artillery corps’ troops will drill various urban warfare scenarios using areas in Beersheva and several Negev Bedouin towns.
The drill is expected to simulate raids, chasing terrorists in open and tight urban areas, and dealing with underground threats, explosive and roadside bombs, as well as maintaining supply and humanitarian-aid routes, the evacuation of casualties and handling the local population.
Southern Command officials said the exercise, which is the first of its kind in years, is of great importance to the troops’ combat readiness, especially given the potential escalation opposite Hamas.
GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi met last week with Beersheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and briefed him of the exercise’s objectives. Danilovich said the municipality would lend the IDF any assistance necessary.
The military stressed the drill has been on the books for more than a year and was set as part of the IDF’s annual training program. However, a senior Southern Command officer noted that in an event of further security escalation between Israel and Hamas, the 162nd Division would be scrambled to the border.