Israeli army to renew urban warfare live-fire training

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will reinstate the use of live ammunition in urban warfare training this week after a long hiatus that followed a soldier's death, the Ma'ariv newspaper reported on Sunday.

Corporal Mor Cohen, a member of the Golani Brigade, was killed in December 2009 during close-quarter battle (CQB) training in Za' ura, a facility on the Golan Heights that overlooks the Israeli- Syrian border.

The investigation into the incident concluded that Cohen, then a fresh recruit in basic infantry training, was hit by a bullet that pierced a wall he was standing behind. It was also discovered that the contractor hired to bullet-proof the facility, and similar ones that the IDF maintains, lacked the proper quality management certification.

The IDF's Ground Forces Command suspended the use of live ammunition in all of its CQB facilities until further notice in the aftermath of the incident. Since then, troops have drilled "on dry," the IDF's jargon for exercises conducted with blank rounds that only emit noise.

The renewed use of live rounds was approved after the military completed upgrading the safety of its CQB facilities, installing specially-hardened plates that prevent ricochets and conducting exhaustive testing of their durability in Israel and abroad, the report said.

Senior IDF commanders welcomed the news with relief. Israeli troops traditionally fire live ammunition on a daily basis, and its use is considered a vital part of training designed to simulate battlefield conditions as realistically as possible.

Particular attention and resources have been given to CQB training since the 2006 Lebanon war and "Cast Lead," the large- scale incursion into the Gaza Strip three years later, in which Israeli troops fought door-to-door in heavily-populated towns and villages.