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The Israeli Military May Soon Allow Women to Fight in Tanks

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Israel has begun an experimental program to see whether women should be allowed to fight in tanks. The move comes as Russia has decided to allow women to pilot military jets, and the U.S. Marine Corps graduated its first female armor officer in April.

The Israeli project is using female soldiers who just finished their basic training. “For the past two weeks, 15 women have been participating in the program, testing their ability to operate tanks, including lifting shells, loading them, driving and firing,” an Israeli military spokesman told the Jerusalem Post earlier this month.

“The focus of the program is to examine the physical abilities of these troops who are divided into teams, each led by a male soldier in command of a Merkava Mark III tank – the most numerous model in front-line service,” the Post said. “Throughout all phases of the program, the women will be accompanied by experienced tank commanders, doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts.”

However, the Israel Defense Force test is also notable because of what it is not. Rather than mixed-gender crews, the tanks will be operated by female-only crews. The IDF has also said that the female-only tanks will not be committed directly into combat zones, but rather will be used for border security.

Why is the IDF considering women as tankers? The answer is not feminism but desperation. “The Armored Corps, in recent years, has become one of the least popular units for recruits because it is said to have the worst service conditions and fewer weekends off than other corps,” the Post pointed out.

Already the project has drawn fire. A former top Israeli commander says female tankers “would undermine in a very dangerous way the delicate and sensitive balance in an already volatile area of the IDF.” Much of that volatility is coming from ultra-Orthodox soldiers who object to serving alongside women.

“If we put two people into a closed box, there’s no way something won’t happen,” warns former IDF chief rabbi Yisrael Weiss. “We can’t put a couple, a man and a woman, a male soldier and a female soldier, into a closed box for a week and expect that nothing will happen. You’ll get a little tank soldier in another nine months.”

Israel is unusual in that women as well as men are subject to the draft, though about 50 percent of women qualify for exemptions on grounds such as religious belief, while about 25 percent of men get the same exemption. Women have long been employed in support roles, such as training snipers—even when women themselves are not employed as combat snipers. The Israeli Air Force graduated its first female fighter pilot in 2001.

The IDF already has women in combat units, notably the Caracal infantry battalion. But unlike regular tank crews or the women in the pilot project, Caracal is a co-ed unit where women serve in combat alongside men.

For the United States, the issue about women tankers isn’t so much religious belief as in Israel, though some of the opposition does seem to be rooted in American conservative dogma that a woman’s place isn’t in the turret. But for both the United States and Israel, the real question will boil down to how well women can do the job. Though tankers get to ride rather than walk to work, it’s still a physically demanding job to change a broken track or load shells. And, as the IDF rabbi pointed out, it is putting young men and women into a confined space—though not a very romantic one.

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Israel Will Never Allow Iran’s Bases in Syria

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The Israeli Prime minister met with the Russian defense minister to discuss the situation in Syria, as well as the Iran nuclear deal in light of the US decision not to certify the agreement. Israel would not allow Iran’s permanent military presence in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said during talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, adding that Tehran “must understand this.”

Commenting on the agenda of his meeting with Shoigu, the Israeli prime minister said that the talks were dedicated to “above all, Iran’s attempts to establish military bases in Syria.”

Netanyahu earlier stated Israel “will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces.”
The Russian Defense Ministry is yet to comment on Israel’s concerns over Iran’s actions in Syria. Commeting on the negotiations, the Russian deputy defense minister has said that Shoigu and Netanyahu had “expressed confidence that the meetings held on the Israeli soil will give an additional impetus to the development of Russian-Israeli cooperation.”

Israel has been long opposing Iran’s and Lebanon-based Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. Iran has been providing support to the Syrian government in its fight against various terrorist groups, including Daesh, and acts alongside Russia and Turkey as one of the guarantor states of the ceasefire in Syria. Tehran has repeatedly refuted media reports claiming that its military had conducted independent operations in Syria.

During his September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of building sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce missiles allegedly aiming to eradicate Israel. When asked to comment on the statement, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow has “no information that someone is preparing an attack on Israel.”

Iran Nuclear Deal

The Israeli prime minister and the Russian defense minister have also discussed the US president’s decision not to certify the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu has reiterated Tel Aviv’s stance, warning of Iran potentially acquiring nuclear weapons if the deal isn’t changed. During his UNGA speech in September, Netanyahu has again addressed the threat Israel believes Iran poses to its security. According to him, the nuclear deal with Iran must be changed or canceled entirely.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced support for Israel’s stance on the nuclear agreement, calling it a “bad deal for Israel.”

On October 16, Trump suggested that Washington might unilaterally exit the agreement despite Rex Tillerson’s earlier comments, saying that the United States will try to negotiate the agreement, which is, according to him, in the best interests of his country.

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Iran Pledges to Confront Israel After Attack on Syrian Air Defense

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Iran’s Military Chief has warned Israel against violating Syrian airspace in the wake of this week’s attack of Israeli Air Force on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria.

“It’s not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate the land and airspace of Syria anytime it wants,” Baqeri said during a news conference with his Syrian counterpart Ali Abdullah Ayoub in Damascus on Wednesday, and promised to increase cooperation with the Syrian military “to confront our common enemies, the Zionists and terrorists”.

The sides established the board lines for this cooperation.

The comments of the Iran’s Chief of Staff come in the follow up to the attack of the Israeli Air Force on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria, which had allegedly shelled at Israeli warplanes as they were conducting a reconnaissance mission at the Syria-Lebanon border.

The Syrian Army however said the Israeli aircraft violated Syria’s airspace near the border with Lebanon in the early hours of Monday and therefore had been attacked by its defense systems.

Israeli Air Forces earlier said that its jets have struck Hezbollah and Syrian military facilities and convoys nearly 100 times during the six-year-long war, with the goal of preventing the transfer of weapons from Iran to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group.

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