ISRAEL EXPECTS TO ENCOUNTER URBAN WARFARE IN POSSIBLE FUTURE WAR IN SYRIA
Hamas surprised the military with their cross-border attack tunnels dug from the densely populated Gaza Strip into the South. The IDF has been investing extensive efforts into locating tunnels from Gaza, and 18 cross-border tunnels have been discovered and destroyed since the end of Operation Protective Edge. But, while the army says that most of the tunnels have been destroyed and no longer pose a threat, the IDF knows that any tunnel opening found inside the Strip is connected to a network of tunnels, full of weapons and fighters.
The IDF also discovered and destroyed six cross-border tunnels along the northern Lebanese border dug by Hezbollah, who planned dozens of terrorist attacks in nearby communities during the next war between Hezbollah and Israel. While the military insists that all northern cross-border tunnels have been destroyed, they have warned of other Hezbollah tunnels that have not crossed the border, but can still be used by the Shi’ite terrorist group.
Instructors in the Underground Warfare Unit go through a grueling seven-week course where they gain in-depth knowledge of tunnel warfare and train their soldiers to think creatively and respond quickly. Underground warfare is just one of the many specializations the Lotar school teaches troops for the next war. The school is divided into different sections according to specialization, including high-altitude rappelling “monkeys,” sniping, robotics, climbing and rescue.
“We don’t see the school as only training for typical terrorist attacks like stabbing or vehicular ramming attacks, but for advanced fighting and future warfare,” said Lt.-Col. Dudu Abu, commander of the school. “If in the past there was one specific thing we trained for here, we now train troops to be versatile and to respond to a wide range of incidents and situations.”
According to the military, over 10,000 troops went through training at Lotar in 2018, and troops from the school have taken part in 23 drills overseas. Lotar troops have taken part in 100 operational missions over the past year. The instructors at the school are all combat soldiers and are responsible for training all IDF units in counter-terrorism, and if needed, take part in operational activities as well.
In the past year, Abu has also taken the training of urban combat to all frontline soldiers who will enter enemy territory. “We have great synergy with all units in the IDF,” he said, explaining that Lotar partners with the newly opened Commando School and that troops from other elite units come to the Adam Facility for several weeks to train.
Lotar’s Counterterrorism Unit specializes in teaching troops tactics and high-altitude warfare, where troops referred to as “monkeys,” rappel from rooftops or helicopters to neutralize threats and rescue hostages.
Troops in the Oketz canine unit also train at Lotar. The unit was established in 1974 and is considered part of the army’s elite special forces, with the dogs and their handlers attached to all of the army’s combat units, filling several important tasks such as detecting explosives and weapons, chasing and attacking wanted suspects, and taking part in search and rescue missions. “Armies from across the world knock on our door to learn about Oketz,” the senior officer said. “We train all year, in Israel and abroad, with our troops and our dogs.”
While Israel has not gone to war since Operation Protective Edge, Oketz has not stopped, acting as “contractors” for other units in the IDF, participating in arrests of Palestinian suspects in the West Bank and with female Oketz soldiers deployed at the various checkpoints, assisting troops in searching vehicles and Palestinians who cross into Israel.
All snipers spend 10 weeks at Lotar, learning how to hit targets from long distances and provide cover for troops. According to the senior commander, snipers are trained to maintain extreme focus under pressure, such as during the weekly border protests along the Gaza Strip, or for urban combat situations where the enemy is able to disappear within seconds.
“Every soldier will take part in the next war and we must make sure that they will be where they need to be and be professional in order to win that next war,” the senior officer said.