Israel's military (the IDF) is no longer hiding from view its preparations for an attack on Iran's nuclear program – most probably in the spring – and its expectation of armed hostilities erupting consequently on at least three fronts, Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza.
Reservists of the IDF Home Front Command received letters this week urging them to collect their gas masks by the end of February.
“There is only a limited number of gas masks left and if you don't collect yours now, you could be left without," Col. Sagi Tirosh wrote in the letter.
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, a division exercise was held to ensure that the drafting of reservists would go forward under attack without disruptions. "The wars we fought in the past did not reach into the home front. We understand the next war will be different," division commander Brig.-Gen. Agay Yehezkel explained. "Next time, reserve mobilization centers in the cities and induction centers can expect to function under fire."
The drill simulated missile bombardments from three directions, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria.
Two weeks earlier, the IDF Paratrooper Brigade staged its biggest exercise in over 15 years: More than 1,000 paratroopers jumped from the sky over southern Israel together with their department and squadron commanders.
Paratrooper Brigade Commander Col. Amir Baram told the men: "At the door of the plane, the paratrooper is quite alone. But down on the ground, the entire brigade comes together and prepares for attack."
The IDF Paratroopers Brigade last performed a massed operational drop 56 years ago over the Suez Canal.
Israel gathers in and overhauls its armed forces
The drop was widely reported and screened on television.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report it was a signal to Iran, Syria and Hizballah that the Israeli military has ample commando troops highly-trained for operations deep inside their borders and well able to reach nuclear and missile targets.
It also demonstrated that Maj. Gen. Shai Avital, former chief of an elite reconnaissance squad, who was appointed commander of the newly-established IDF Depth Corps on Jan. 19, has enough manpower available for a free hand.
The new outfit has absorbed the covert operations units scattered among the various commands: Shaldag which was transferred from the Air Force; Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit), which was moved out of Military Intelligence, and Shayetet 13 (the US Navy SEALs equivalent) which was detached from the Navy.
The Israel Navy has also been reinforced and submarines added to its Red Sea fleet.
In a pep talk Wednesday, Feb. 1, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said the country must muster all its military resources for action in case economic sanctions fail to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. There is very little time to play with, he said, because Iran may be no more than a year away from a nuclear weapons capability.
Gantz was the first Israeli office-holder to state explicitly that Israel and its military were planning armed action against Iran.
He also leveled on another score: Iran and its allies have gained at least one major advantage over Israel, said the general. Their acquisition of long-range ballistic missiles means there is no point on the Israeli map which is not exposed to attack.