Entering a city wearing a field-uniform is a bad idea, it brings undesired attention while failing to camouflage. Adding a weapon and ammunition to the sight is even worse; it is like telling police informants "please rob my M16."
Entering downtown with an entire battalion is asking for troubles. Unless of course, you are exercising the conquest of the city. That is what Battalion 82 of the IDF Armored Brigade 7 did in Ashkelon while simulating the conquest of Gaza City in the last week of November 2013. This event is one of the first visible results of the new redeployment plan of the IDF.*
The images of the event are strange. Soldiers equipped for war waiting for traffic lights to change. Soldiers ready to fight being studied with interest and no fear by passersby. Newspapers interviewing the forces during action. Despite their uniforms, they weren't camouflaged at all. Yet, the importance of the event was not visible.
Still using old Merkava-2 tanks, Armored Brigade 7 is considered the best of its kind in the IDF. Active since 1948, it was the unit that fought the Valley of the Tears (Emek Bacha) Battle in 1973, defeating a much larger Syrian force. Formally part of Division 36 in the Golan Heights, it is experiencing sharp changes due to the IDF ongoing reorganization.
Division 36 is the IDF's heaviest and largest regular division. The redeployment designed it as one of the five multi-theatre division of the army. This explains why this battalion appeared near Gaza. One of its company's commanders disclosed that the event was part of a division-level exercise which included also elite units.
What was reported by the Hebrew media fits regular IDF methods of operation. Such an event is called "skeletal exercise" (targil shildi) and includes only part of the forces to be deployed in a real event. It is mainly a test of the commanding process.
The event belongs also to a category known as "rolling exercise," a phrase describing a developing event rather than a single action. In this case, it showed the attack and conquest of Ashkelon, near Gaza, including entrance to populated and forested areas, all the way to the coast, including the conquest of IDF bases (Zikim, a training base).
According to the IDF, it was the first time that the army performed such an exercise of urban conquest in real conditions. One of the commanders said "This is not Tzeelim (a training base in the desert), this was an exercise in a real city, with a lot of constructed areas, we entered areas with civilians in real time (referring to the planned schedule). The civilians asked questions and were interested. We told them that Ashkelon, like any other coastal city is very similar to Gaza."
Beyond the surprised comments of the commanders on the unusual sight of "living and moving people" in an exercise, they summarized it as "The IDF is ready for conquering Gaza."
At this stage, Zionist readers will wipe an escaping tear and bless God for this fine young men ready to kill every "living and moving people" in Gaza, even if they have no reason for doing that. Don't ask questions and obey the State, that is the main lesson from WWII. Right?
I don't want to comment on the moral of war today. I just want to ask the readers to look at the images above while remembering the captain's words "The IDF is ready for conquering Gaza." Now, even readers that do not served in the army can answer the following question, would IDF soldiers conquering Gaza be allowed to use the X-ing marks?