Israel prepares for potential escalation at its northern border amid Iran tensions

The IDF’s 91st division, responsible for securing Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, completed an extensive exercise focused on defensive and offensive scenarios in preparation for possible scenarios that could lead to war. (IDF)

Israel’s 91st division, which is responsible for securing the northern border with Lebanon, carried out a large-scale exercise focused on various scenarios that could develop into a future war. The drill ended on April 15, one day after Iran launched almost 350 drones and missiles at Israel. Several days after the drill was completed, it was reported that the IDF carried out a retaliatory airstrike inside Iran overnight between April 18 and 19.

The 91st division worked with the Israeli police, search and rescue forces and the Israeli air force during its drill. The large-scale training came ten days after a similar training by the 146th reserve division. Both units are seeking to prepare for war by working with local police and other units to practice together in case of escalation. This is because the battle space in northern Israel is composed of small towns and villages and the civilians in northern Israel are expected to come under large barrages of rocket fire by Hezbollah in any future war. Israel has already evacuated around 80,000 people from the border area since Hezbollah began its attacks on October 8, 2023.

The exercise is a significant part of the division’s preparations for a range of scenarios in the north, dealing with complex terrain, challenging weather conditions, and multi-casualty events. All forces in the region — including regional defense officers and members of the civilian rapid response teams in various communities, Israel Police and rescue forces, armored and engineering units, and brigades of the division — are operating to maintain full readiness for a strong defense of the Upper Galilee and an offensive in Lebanon,” the IDF said in a statement.

After the division completed the training, its commander Brig. Gen. Shay Kalper met with the commander of the 146th division, Brig. Gen. Yisrael Shomer. The two officers met with the heads of local civilian councils and with the civilian security personnel who volunteer in various villages in the north near the Lebanese border. The meetings included a “situational assessment so far, as well as the processes to accelerate the readiness for continued fighting in the north of Israel,” the IDF said.

“We are all writing a chapter in the history of the Galilee. We are determined and ready to win and in our generation we were privileged to take part in this matter,” Kalper said. The commanding officers mentioned the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover and upcoming Israeli Independence Day. They also thanked the community heads for their work during a difficult time.

Hezbollah continued to carry out attacks on northern Israel, targeting military facilities of the 91st division and launching rockets toward numerous border communities. The IDF responded with proportional fire using artillery and said it struck a military compound used by Hezbollah.

The tensions in the north come amid Iran-Israel tensions in the region. Israel carried out an airstrike near Isfahan in Iran in the early hours of April 19, according to numerous reports. The strike targeted an Iranian military airbase. It was not clear how damaging nor how extensive the strike was, though it appeared limited in scale. It was also not clear if this was the only Israeli response to the Iranian drone and missile attack several days earlier. Iran had vowed to respond if it was attacked inside its borders, however Tehran downplayed the airstrike after it happened. Israel’s leaders have said they will respond to Iran and make their own decisions despite pressure in recent days from the US and western countries to not retaliate.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 


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