Israeli Military Drills Come amidst Regional Tensions

The Israeli military is in the process of conducting several different exercises amidst tensions with Gaza and a re-emergence of reports regarding a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Despite the current timing, the Israeli drills were planned long before the current headlines. The drills range from air force exercises to missile defense.

Israeli and British media, meanwhile, are saying that discussions are being held on a possible strike on Iran—which is reportedly being considered by Israel and even Britain. Action by the British would take place as part of a potential joint attack with the United States, who has yet to decide they wish to take that step at this time.

In apparently unconnected timing, Israel conducted a rocket-related exercise on Wednesday. The Israeli Ministry of Defense did not clarify if it was an offensive missile test or related to their missile defense system.

According to a Defense Ministry Official who spoke with The Mideast Update by email on Wednesday, “Israel today carried out the test-firing of a rocket propulsion system from the Palmachim [air] base. This had been planned by the Defense Establishment a long time ago and was carried out as scheduled.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also commented briefly on Wednesday about the impressive technological advances Israel has made in this field.

Coincidentally, the same day as the test, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the British military is working on contingency plans should the US decide to attack Iran and ask for UK assistance.

Officials cited in The Guardian article said that US President Barack Obama does not want a new conflict with elections just a year away, but a source noted that new concerns may force him to change his plans in the coming months—partly to avoid doing it right before the November 2012 election.

One issue is that the Iranians are moving nuclear-enrichment equipment underground into their fortified bunker facility. Said the source in The Guardian report, “Beyond [12 months], we couldn’t be sure our missiles could reach them. So the window is closing, and the UK needs to do some sensible forward planning.

“The US could do this on their own but they won’t. So we need to anticipate being asked to contribute. We had thought this would wait until after the US election next year, but now we are not so sure.”

In Israel, the topic has been raised by the Yediot Ahronoth and Haaretz newspapers. Haaretz reported on Tuesday that no decision on attacking Iran has been made, but that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to get a cabinet majority to support military action. The report did not specify when such an attack might occur.

Israeli Military Exercises

In addition to the rocket-related test, Israel recently finished up an air force drill at the Island of Sardinia in a joint exercise with the Italian Air Force. According to a report on the Israel Air Force website, the weeklong drill session allowed the Israeli pilots to fly in large spaces together with European planes, as well as improve connections with the Italians and other similar goals. Israel sent F-16 squadrons as part of their delegation.

Lt. Col. Yiftah said in the IAF report, “We had the great opportunity to fly in extremely vast areas, even larger than Israel in its entirety, practicing very complex outlines with many planes that have abilities that are unknown to us.”

Back at home, Israel’s Home Front Command is set to conduct an exercise responding to rocket attacks in their highly-populated central coastal region.

According to an IDF press statement, “As part of its routine training for emergencies, the Home Front Command regularly conducts exercises and drills. This drill was part of the scheduled training program for 2011 and is not influenced by the current events.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 2, 2011)