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July 16, 2018 9:42 am

Amid Rising Tensions, IDF Trains for Ground Operations in Gaza City

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IDF soldiers on patrol near a burning field on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen. – As tensions on the Israel-Gaza Strip border mount, ‎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 at 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.‎

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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 on 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.‎

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