“Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday morning launched a large-scale surprise exercise in the north of country, on the orders of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, amid rising chatter of a possible conflagration with Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah,” reports the Times of Israel. “The commander of the Artillery Corps, Brig. Gen. Roy Riftin, was overseeing the exercise, which involved standing troops from the Northern and Central commands, the Israeli Air Force, as well as reserve soldiers who simulated the emergency call-up routine. Toward the end of the day, forces from the Central Command were to be helicoptered to locations on the Golan Heights to take part in a live-fire exercise, according to the IDF Spokesman. The drill also comes amid growing concerns over the deteriorating situation in Syria and the fate of President Bashar Assad’s sizable chemical weapons stockpile. The IDF said that the exercise was a scheduled test of the army’s readiness to respond to a sudden attack on the country. On Wednesday, a defected Syrian general who was once in charge of the country’s chemical weapons said that Assad had drawn up plans to transfer the weapons to Hezbollah. A similar surprise exercise was held by the IDF last year. Earlier this month the IDF held a large exercise in the neighboring Galilee region and Gantz also observed another, smaller exercise on the Golan Heights.”

>> Haaretz: Former Syrian general: Assad planned to transfer chemical weapons to Hezbollah

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