The Israeli army has launched a three-day exercise in the coastal city of Ashkelon to simulate a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. Some of the troops from the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division will represent Hamas.

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz wanted the division to take part in a full-fledged exercise, a senior IDF officer said. “The exercise … is not being held because of a concrete need that has suddenly arisen, “ the officer added. “It’s part of our work plan.”

The IDF occasionally conducts drills in populated areas in both Israel and the West Bank. A previous large-scale exercise was conducted by the Golani Brigade in the northern city of Safed. […]