God only knows how Hezbollah trains its fighters, but I have a pretty good idea what the Israelis are up to because Abe Lapson, an IDF director of combat engineering, hosted me at the urban warfare training center in the northern Negev near the border with Gaza.
They built a scale model city out there in the desert where Israeli soldiers engage in sophisticated combat exercises. They fight each other in these exercises, so it’s always a challenge. Trained Israeli soldiers are far more dangerous than any army—even Hezbollah—the modern Arab world has yet produced.
I saw the skyline of the “city” as we approached on a road through desert, and from a distance it almost looks real. Up close it’s different.
“It almost looks like a set for a video game,” I said.
Lapson chuckled and said, “But it’s real.”
I could see everything from the control tower. The buildings are smaller and farther apart on the outskirts than they are in the center, just like a real village or town in the West Bank, Gaza, or Lebanon. And I have to say they did a pretty good job with the realism. Pyrotechnic teams set off explosions. Vehicles emit different colors of smoke depending on what kind of damage they’ve supposedly taken. Walls have simulated blast holes because doors and windows are often booby-trapped, forcing soldiers to create alternate entrances.
I’ve never been to a Hezbollah training camp, although I did ask Hezbollah officials if I could see one before they blacklisted me for “writing against the party.” They refused. Still, I’m certain they don’t have dummies representing civilians who aren’t to be touched.
The Israelis do, though. They place mannequins on the grounds dressed in the clothes of civilians and peacekeepers as well as enemy soldiers and terrorists.
“The other side includes both hostiles and civilians,” Lapson said, “and the hostiles will often embed themselves among the civilians. We go over a large number of what-if scenarios. We imbue an ethical and moral backbone in all our soldiers from the very beginning, and we have humanitarian officers with our infantry troops. We take extra precautions, even when it puts our own troops in danger.”Read the whole thing.
And while he mentions that it looks like a video game, that is one great idea that someone could do - a video-game that shows the difficulty of fighting the IDF way, trying to avoid civilians while hitting terrorists pretending to be civilian. While, at the same time, worried that the rockets you are targeting don't end up hitting your own family.