IDF surrenders to pressure, cancels drill in Arab-Israeli city

“Any sane person would not allow such an exercise in his city,” says Umm Al-Fahm mayor. “The situation is very explosive right now.”

By World Israel News Staff

The IDF is facing backlash after surrendering to pressure from the mayor of a Muslim city in northern Israel and cancelling a military drill that was slated to take place in the municipality.

Umm Al-Fahm, a hotbed of Islamist extremism and the hometown of the Hadera terrorists and extremist Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, has long a posed security challenge for the Israeli government.

The city’s mayor, Samir Sobhi Mahameed, reached out to Defense Minister Benny Gantz several weeks ago after learning that the military would be holding a drill, simulating combat with the Hezbollah terror group, in Umm Al-Fahm.

In a letter to Gantz obtained by Ynet, Mahameed wrote that he and “the city council, and the residents of Umm al-Fahm, are strongly opposed to conducting the military drill inside the city…

“Needless to say that moving armored personnel carriers inside the city which simulates a battle against Hezbollah has a dramatic effect on the feelings of the residents.”

Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi acceded to Mahameed’s request, issuing a directive relocating the drill to open areas near the city, in the Wadi Ara valley.

The decision to change the drill’s location was met with displeasure by senior and mid-tier IDF officers, who told Ynet that the move signaled a symbolic victory for extremists.

“Israel must preserve governance in the area,” one official said, noting that the IDF regularly uses the southern city of Ashdod to simulate combat with Hamas or other nearby, Gaza-based terror groups.

“Any sane person would not allow such an exercise in his city,” Mahameed told Ynet in a conversation after the drill’s relocation was announced. “The situation is very explosive right now. [The drill] is unnecessary and we want to maintain coexistence.”

Residents of Umm Al-Fahm regularly riot, attack security forces and block roads outside of the municipality during clashes between Israel and Gaza or when Arabs riot on the Temple Mount.

During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, locals attacked passing Jewish motorists throwing Molotov cocktails, cinder blocks, and rocks at their vehicles.

“As part of the month of the war [drill], one of the exercises was also planned in the Umm al-Fahm area,” the IDF said in a press statement.

“In accordance with the request of the municipality, the necessary adjustments were made in the layout of the exercise, including bypassing the city and practicing [instead] in the mountainous and rural areas. There was no change in the required goals and achievements of the exercise as defined and planned in advance.”