Israel Defense Forces: December 2011

 The month of December was a stormy one in the IDF.

Israel is in “the midst of regional turmoil in the Middle East that [the region] has not known for many years,” according to Major General Eyal Eisenberg, Head of the Home Front Command. The month’s events strengthen his assesment, as seen below.

 The 163rd IAF Flight Course graduated, including five women – the largest number to ever finish the course at once. The percentage of graduates who volunteer in a year course program, prior to doing their mandatory service, has risen from 14% to 22%.

This month, Jewish soldiers in the IDF celebrated the eight-day holiday of Hannukah. Soldiers in the field celebrated the occasion with their fellow troops – bases held candle lighting ceremonies and served 385,000 of sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).

IDF soldiers celebrating Hannukah

In anticipation of Christmas, which was also celebrated in the army, the IDF and the Civil Administration acted to aid the Christian Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria: During the holiday season, COGAT officials eased movement restrictions on Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria Region; cooperated with Christian leaders on security at religious ceremonies; and ensured security for mass pilgrimages to holy sites.

Dec 27: Three years since Operation “Cast Lead”, a military operation intended to weaken Hamas and restore security to the Israeli citizens who suffered from rocket attacks originating in Gaza. The threat has not yet been eliminated; this month alone 23 rockets and 11 mortars were fired into heavily populated areas in Israel from the Gaza Strip. Over the past decade alone Hamas has fired more than 11,000 rockets at Israel.

Dec 18: The Israeli Navy’s 100th Submariner’s Course graduated, marking the end of 14 challenging months for its soldiers. The Israel Navy Commander, Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg, addressed the graduates, saying that they will “now operate to protect the security of the State of Israel, above and beneath the water,” and that “covertness and lethality will characterize [their] missions.”

Dec 16: A two-week training exercise between the Israeli and the Italian Air Forces concluded.

“The cooperation with the Italians has been ongoing for close to a decade”, said Brig. Gen. Hagi Topolansky, Head of the Aerial Division. “Our joint exercises allow us to improve in a variety of fields.” The Italian Head of Aerial Division said, “We conduct several kinds of training exercises, learning much from the IAF.”

Israel’s Northern Border

Dec. 19: Terrorists in southern Lebanon fired two Katyusha rockets into northern Israel and four more rockets were found 800 meters from the border.

Since the conclusion of the 2nd Lebanon War in 2006, the rockets have improved in “their quantity, deadliness, range and accuracy,” said Maj. Gen. Eisenberg, pointing out “they can be launched at any given moment.”

Israel’s Southern Border

In December, Israel coordinated the transfer of more than 136,500 tons of goods and gas into Gaza. Gaza terrorists launched 23 rockets and 11 mortars into heavily populated areas in Israel.

This month saw the completion of the second stage of the Gilad Shalit deal, which involved releasing 550 Palestinian prisoners. In total, 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were released to the Judea and Samaria Region, 41 to the Gaza Strip and the rest to Jordan and East Jerusalem.

The Sinai Peninsula “has become a platform for terrorist groups, both Palestinians and global jihadists, to initiate attacks,” said Brig. Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai.  Lt. Col. Ilan Dayan, Commander of Territorial Defense in the Gaza Division, said there is a growing “security threat” and “infiltration problem” along the Israel-Egypt border. In light of this, Israel is building a physical barrier along the Israel-Egypt border and maintains good cooperation with the Egyptian military.

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