March 1, 2015 / 5:13 PM / 3 years ago

Israeli military holds surprise West Bank drill

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli military said it had mobilized some 13,000 soldiers for an unannounced drill on Sunday in the occupied West Bank, in the first such exercise in three years.

A terse statement said army chief Gadi Eisenkot had called a “surprise exercise in Central Command” -- the military front that controls land captured in a 1967 war which is sought by Palestinians as part of a future state.

Footage of the exercise filmed by an Israeli television station showed soldiers in armored vehicles practicing how to handle casualties at the scene of a confrontation.

The drill came on the day that Palestinians said they would consider dissolving security cooperation with Israel over Israel’s recent suspension of tax revenue transfers.

Asked about the timing of the drill, a military spokeswoman said it was “not necessarily linked to anything specific”. Israel’s last such exercise in the West Bank was in 2012, and drills “are held from time to time,” the spokeswoman said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s 110-member decision-making body was expected to meet later this week to weigh proposals to suspend about a decade of security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said.

“Decisions will be taken regarding all forms of relations with Israel,” Mahmoud Al-Aloul, a senior official of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, told reporters.

Tensions have risen since the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks last April, and a rise in violence between the sides since the eve of a July-August Gaza war, with political analysts often questioning whether a new uprising was in the offing.

Israel last month suspended transfer of vital tax funds to protest against the Palestinians joining world bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Under security cooperation renewed since shortly after a Palestinian uprising of a decade ago, the Palestinians have conducted police duties in their territory, including arrests of suspected criminals and anti-Israel militants.

Israeli media said Eisenkot, who took the helm of the military last month, had called a two-day drill to test the army’s level of readiness.

Israel Radio quoted an unidentified senior military source as saying the drill had been unexpected, would be “unusual in size” and would also involve aerial and intelligence units.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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