The Israel Defense Forces was on Wednesday exercising the emergency airlift of reserve combat soldiers from Central Command to the Golan Heights. The drill was part of a larger "snap preparatory exercise" ordered late Tuesday night by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. Reservists from participating units received messages on their cellular phones in the early hours ordering them to gather at predetermined collection points.
In a statement, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said the live-fire exercise was planned in advance, and that there was "no change in the army's readiness" to be gleaned from the drill. The army said the unannounced drill was part of the IDF's regular examination of its preparedness. Wednesday's drill was commanded by Chief Artillery Officer Brig. Gen. Roee Riptin.
The State Comptroller's and Winograd Commission reports from the Second Lebanon War found that before that war with Hezbollah, training for reservists and regular soldiers was lacking, as well as finding problems with emergency weapons and equipment stores.
Wednesday's airlift of combat forces from the center of the country to the increasingly unstable northern border comes on the backdrop of the civil war in Syria, and increasing reports of the Syrian army's intentions to use chemical weapons against rebels and civilians as a last resort.
Since the Syrian uprising began last March, the IDF has noticed increased activity by rebels, the Syrian army, and jihadist elements on the Syrian Golan Heights.
Wednesday morning's army drill aimed to test the readiness of a number of offensive IDF units, including artillery and infantry. Taking part in the drill are forces from Northern Command, Central Command, the Air Force, and other units. The drill started with the airlift of forces and will end later Wednesday with a live-fire exercise.
The deteriorating situation in Syria has become a mounting concern for Israel, which fears the unrest will spill over the border, and the long-quiet frontier area will become a new Islamist front against the Jewish state.
The IDF has been monitoring the situation on the Golan Heights for some time, due to concerns that terrorists affiliated with the global jihad movement may be among those who try to enter the country.
At this point, no increase in IDF troops on the Golan has been planned or implemented, but special units in the north have been trained for a swift response if regular units in the north require reinforcements within a short time.
In late July, Gantz said the Syrian government remains in control of its chemical weapons arsenals, and militants do not appear to have raided them. Gantz warned that could change and counseled restraint over the possibility that Israel might decide to attack those depots to keep them out of militant hands, as Israeli leaders have recently threatened to do. Such a strike could drag Israel "into a broader offensive than planned," he cautioned.
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