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Israel launches surprise military exercises in south

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image Israeli soldiers take part in a military training in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, near the border with Syria on February 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Israeli army has conducted two drills in the southern part of the occupied territories amid recent tensions in the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it launched a surprise military exercise for reserve forces on Sunday morning that aimed to test the readiness of the Southern Command.

According to the statement, the called-up soldiers would practice various operational scenarios relevant to the alleged threats faced in the south.

Israel’s military spokesperson said the drill and another exercise in the Negev desert were planned beforehand, adding they were not connected to recent tensions with Gaza and militants in Sinai.

Sinai is situated in the northeastern extremity of Egypt and adjoins the occupied Palestinian territories and the blockaded Gaza Strip on the east.

A militant group operating in Sinai has recently stepped up its assaults. Last month, the group claimed responsibility for rockets fired at the city of Eilat in an attack which Tel Aviv said caused no damage or casualties.

The Israeli army on Sunday said more army vehicles would be deployed in the southern and central regions.

Israel has launched a separate drill in the Negev region, which is scheduled to be wrapped up on Wednesday. 

A picture taken on March 3, 2017 shows smoke rising from clashes between Palestinian protesters and foreign activists with Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. (Photo by AFP)

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed tensions ever since Israel imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.

At least 283 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the tensions since the beginning of October that year. 


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