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The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Security and Defense: Taking to the streets
By YAAKOV KATZ
The Jerusalem Post 07/05/2010 15:46
Narrow alleys, enemies posing as civilians and schools doubling as
storerooms for weapons – urban warfare is an IDF nightmare.
Not many periods resemble this year in terms of military buildup among
Israel’s enemies. A quick glance along the borders demonstrates just how
significant the current trend is – Hamas is re-arming at an unprecedented
rate in the ; Hizbullah is doing the same in Lebanon; and Syria is
also training its forces in guerrilla tactics in the event of a future war.
What will spark this future war is unclear, but IDF officers joke about how
they will have to cancel their overseas vacation plans this summer. One
possibility is an IAF strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which will likely
lead to conflict with Hizbullah, Hamas and possibly Syria. Another
possibility is that Hizbullah will succeed – after many failed attempts – to
avenge the 2008 assassination of its military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, in
Damascus. If it shoots down an El Al plane or blows up an embassy, Israel
will likely feel compelled to respond.
Conflict could also erupt if Israel decides to attack a Syrian weapons
convoy to Hizbullah. This comes amid news that Syria has transferred an
unknown number of Scuds as well as hundreds of M600 missiles. The
Syrian-made M600 – which has a solid propellant and is a clone of the
Iranian Fateh-110 – has a range of 250 km., a 500 kg. warhead, and is
equipped with a sophisticated guidance system, giving Hizbullah
On the ground, the common denominator between all three fronts is the
urbanization process that is taking place. While Syria retains its tanks and
artillery, its recent investments have been in its commando units, antitank
missiles, rapid deployment capabilities and the construction of ghost towns
along the border to trap IDF troops.
Hizbullah has done the same. In the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the IDF
encountered an enemy both entrenched in and heavily
deployed in what it called “nature reserves,” forested areas where Hizbullah
dug bunkers and set up launch sites.
Based on current intelligence, the situation has gotten worse. Hizbullah is
almost completely stationed inside cities and villages throughout Lebanon. A
future war will be fought not in the hills but in the narrow alleys and
streets of Bint Jbail, Maron a-Ras and Hirbet Selm.
Hamas is no different. Following Operation Cast Lead, it underwent an
extensive internal inquiry, together with its Iranian patrons, and decided
to increase its dependence on civilian infrastructure. If Hamas fighters hid
in a dozen hospitals during Cast Lead, the number is likely to be double in
the next war. If it fired rockets from a dozen schools, the number next time
will likely be triple that.
Tasked with preparing IDF units with the future urban warfare it faces is
the Command (GFC), currently headed by Maj.-Gen. Sami
Turgeman, a veteran tank commander and until last year commander of Division
36, the IDF’s mobilized division on the Golan Heights.
Immediately after the Second Lebanon War, the IDF embarked on a process
which culminated six months ago in the approval by the of a
new operational doctrine for ground forces. Other IDF branches, like the air
force and the navy, are currently in the process of writing their own
The document, authored by a number of senior officers and overseen by
Brig.-Gen. Ilan Peretz, one of Turgeman’s deputies, essentially serves as
the reference for the military on how it should prepare its infantry,
armored, combat engineering and artillery forces for a future war, either
asymmetric or conventional.
“The document is our compass,” a top GFC officer recently told The Jerusalem
Post. “We analyzed what the nature of the next war will be and what we need
to do to get ourselves ready for it.”
Urban warfare, for example, has two innate difficulties. First, the closed
quarters makes it easier for the enemy to conceal its positions and
weaponry. As a result, it is difficult for the military to collect
intelligence. It is also difficult for a conventional military to accurately
distinguish between civilians and fighters who wear civilian clothing.
Therefore, the GFC recently decided that urban warfare training would be
mandatory for all its units – whether infantry, armor or –
in their basic training.
“We don’t train for specific missions, but we create the capability the
soldiers will need to effectively carry out any type of mission they
receive,” the senior GFC officer said.
With the demand for the increase in training has also come the need for
additional IDF urban-warfare training centers.
Currently equipped with close to 20 facilities – the largest at the Tze’elim
base in the Negev – the IDF will increase that number by close to 50 percent
by next year and is currently building new facilities at the Golani and Kfir
infantry brigade training bases.
The IDF is also constructing a mock village in the Combat Engineer training
base in the Negev that is modeled after urban areas in the Gaza Strip and
where, according to the IDF, Hamas and Hizbullah have
booby-trapped homes and built underground passageways stretching dozens of
Another decision was to create brigade combat teams (BCTs) made up of a
combination of infantry, armor and combat engineers like the forces that
fought in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. All combat units are
part of BCTs, so while the commander of the Paratroop Brigade, for example,
is only in charge of his four battalions on a daily basis, in the event of a
war or large-scale operation, his brigade will take in tanks and engineering
“The name of the game is interoperability,” the officer said. “This way the
commanders already know how to operate together and how to effectively
utilize the wide variety of forces under their command.”
For large-scale operations which involve the air force, each will receive an air liaison officer. This officer has his own
armored personnel carrier and enters the area of operations with the BCT and
serves as the ’s main air consultant.
“The brigade commander can say that he needs a specific target destroyed,
but doesn’t know which bomb or aircraft to use,” the officer said. “This is
what the liaison’s job is.”
To meet , the GFC has recommended to the General
Staff that training regimens be increased from 13 weeks every two years to
17 weeks. The target date is next year.
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