Israel stages large-scale military drill in Golan Heights amid Iran tensions

Israel stages large-scale military drill in Golan Heights amid Iran tensions
The surprise drill comes as Netanyahu warns that the Syrian regime is "no longer immune" from Israeli retaliatory airstrikes in the border area awash with tension
2 min read
10 June, 2018
Israel has been reinforcing its military presence in the Golan as tensions soar [Getty]
The Israeli military staged a surprise drill in the Golan Heights on Sunday, planned to continue for several days, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The army announced there was to be increased vehicular activity as well as explosions in the area. Reserve soldiers were also summoned for the drill.

The military added that the drills were planned in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule in order to "maintain combat readiness". However, residents of the area reported being taken by surprise by the sudden military activity.

Last week, Israel's air force undertook a four-day drill across Israel's air bases.

The Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have witnessed heightened tensions in recent months causing many to fear an all-out conflict between Israel and Iran, whose proxy militias have been fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria.

These militias have launched several attacks into the Golan, to which Israel have responded with several deadly strikes on Iranian military positions in Syria, although it has not confirmed its responsibility for all of the attacks.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian regime is "no longer immune" from retaliation, warning the Syrian dictator that Iran is not the only target of Israeli military jets in Syria.

"He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, we will destroy his forces," Netanyahu said.

"I think there is a new calculus that has to take place and Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel," he said.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu made diplomatic efforts with Russia to expel Iranian forces from Syria, and hand over control of the southwestern Syria border area, parts of which rebels still control, to the regime.

The tensions come amid escalation in the country's southwest near the border with Israel, where in early May Iran struck Israeli positions in the Golan Heights in retaliation for repeated airstrikes in Syria.

On 10 May, Israel unleashed a heavy bombardment against what it said were Iranian military installations in Syria. It said it was retaliation for an Iranian rocket barrage on its positions in the Golan. It was the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.

Israel has been mostly using Lebanon's airspace to strike targets inside Syria in an apparent move to avoid any conflict with Russia's warplanes that fly over Syria. Russia has a major air base near Syria's coast from where warplanes have been taking off to strike at rebels throughout Syria.