The year 2018 proved to be a challenging yet fruitful year for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The year included joint drills with Israel’s allies, demolition of Hamas and Hezbollah terror tunnels, completion of vital army infrastructure and providing life-saving humanitarian aid for those in need.
1. Juniper Cobra Joint IDF-US Army Exercise
In early 2018, the IDF participated in a five-day missile defense exercise with the US military. Nicknamed “Juniper Cobra,” the large-scale exercise was designed to simulate responses to a Middle East war with heavy enemy fire simultaneously on multiple fronts. Some 2,500 US army personnel joined 2,000 IDF soldiers, practicing the integration of capabilities with Israel’s air-defense layers with fighting forces in less than 72 hours and ground forces with just one day of notice.
2. IDF Drops Leaflets in Gaza
In the early spring 2018, tens of thousands of Palestinians led violent uprisings against Israeli security infrastructures and the IDF. As Hamas in Gaza used its civilians as human shields, IDF planes dropped leaflets along the Gaza border warning Palestinian civilians not to approach the security fence or participate in any terrorist activities. While the IDF understands that warning civilians of upcoming retaliations of terrorist personnel and infrastructure could cause operational disadvantages, the IDF has yet again shown its true colors as the most moral army, attempting to minimize collateral damage within the Gazan population.
3. IDF Celebrates Israel’s 70th With Special Needs Kids
In May 2018, the IDF shattered societal boundaries to mark Israel’s 70th Independence Day, visiting the ALEH center for children with special needs for a celebratory barbeque. “ALEH teaches us what it means to be truly happy and how to celebrate as one big and united Israeli family,” said Itai, the commander at Machane Ofer military base near Givat Ze’ev who participated in the special barbeque.
4. IDF Participates in NATO Exercises
In a first, the IDF participated in a US-led North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) Eastern European exercise with 18,000 soldiers from 19 countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The IDF expressed its commitment to securing Europe, even amidst comments by NATO’s secretary general that the alliance would not come to Israel’s defense should it be attacked by Iran. The IDF showed its true colors in 2018 by offering protection to those who may not have Israel’s best interests in mind.
5. IDF Evacuates Syrian White Helmets to Jordan
Over the summer 2018, the IDF carried out extensive humanitarian aid operations in Syria. In July, the IDF rescued members of the Syrian Civil Defense Members (White Helmets) and their families, escorting them from war-torn Syria and leading them to safety in Jordan. Other IDF humanitarian operations in Syria have included delivering food, tents, medical equipment and clothes to refugees fleeing hostilities.
6. IAF Appoints First Female Squadron Commander
In August 2018, the Israeli Air Force appointed the first female commander of an IAF squadron. The 34 year-old was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel after serving for 15 years in the IAF. This promotion came in the context of other important promotions for women serving in the IDF, including the army’s first four female tank commanders.
7. IDF Neutralizes Explosives Thrown From Gaza Strip Towards Israel
In the context of continued Gazans rioting by the Israel-Gaza border fence, the IDF detonated various improvised explosive devices and destroyed more than 100 grenades thrown by Gaza rioters. Firefighters and rescue teams extinguished incendiary balloons as the rioters attempted to break through the fence to injure IDF soldiers, while the IDF proved resilient and protected the citizens of Israel against those who want to harm them.
8. Huge IDF Medical Corps Team Joins European Disaster Drill
In October 2018, a large IDF delegation of medical corps took part in an earthquake drill in Romania, in cooperation with the European Union. The scenario practiced for a 7.5 magnitude earthquake causing injuries, missing persons and casualties. The Israeli team included doctors, nurses, medical assistants, pharmacists, paramedics, a psychologist, veterinarian, physiotherapist, x-ray technicians, lab technicians, biologists, a Rabbi, kitchen staffers, and even a medical clown. The drill strengthened cooperation between the IDF and the European Union, with the goal of saving lives abroad.
9. IDF Completes ‘Fortress of Zion’ Command Center
Some of the vital infrastructure completed by the IDF this year included the wartime command and control center in the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv this November. The new ‘Fortress of Zion’ bunker room replaces the previous bunker built in 1966. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the bunker includes offices for the prime minister and defense ministers as well as foreign ministers and heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad national intelligence agency to accommodate various types of security meetings.
10. IDF Uncovers Hezbollah Attack Tunnels Penetrating Into Israel
This week, IDF soldiers found and destroyed the fifth Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror tunnel along the Israel-Lebanese border. The tunnel, originating in the Lebanese village of Ayta-Shayeb, crossed over into Israeli territory and was destroyed using precise intel and new IDF technology. According to the IDF, the tunnels are likely being prepared for future warfare in which terrorists will attempt to enter Israel.
“For every awesome IDF feat that we heard about in 2018, we know that there are countless other things that the Israeli army has done to secure Israel, all while supporting others in need,” said John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of American Friends of LIBI. “We thank the IDF for their continued efforts over the past year, and send our greatest thanks, in advance, knowing that the IDF will continue their incredible efforts into 2019.”
Written in cooperation with American Friends of LIBI.