They made no attempt to hide their delighted boyish grins as the 25mm cannon round decapitated the target.
Sailors let rip with a .50 Cal heavy machine gun, a general purpose machine gun went off like a chain saw, and bursts from M16 rifles clattered.
It had a deadly serious purpose. This training exercise was a demonstration of firepower from the Israeli navy close to the maritime border with Lebanon – the base for the vehemently anti-Israeli Hizbollah movement – and tens of thousands of the descendants of Palestinian refugees.
Cross border conflicts in the past between the two countries have focused on air campaigns and heavy weapons, rocket attacks by Hizbollah and a covert war of attrition.
Hizbollah is now in a hurry to maintain its arsenal – and update it. It knows that it may soon lose its most reliable source of weapons – the government of Bashar al Assad in Syria.
The “Islamic Resistance” at it calls itself, has been trying to get its hands on strategic weapons that could maintain a balance of threat with Israel.
These include surface to air and surface to ship missiles – the latter sank an Israeli missile carrying ship during the 2006 war.
Israel has attacked arms convoys allegedly destined for Hizbollah inside Syria three times this year.
The Jewish State is anxious to prevent any of its enemies from diluting the air and sea supremacy it currently enjoys. It’s locked in an uneven arms race that it intends to win.
But the other side is catching up.
Drones, flown by Hizbollah or Iran, have penetrated Israeli airspace – one was shot down recently off the coast of Haifa.
“We, the resistance in Lebanon, are ready to receive any special sophisticated weapons, even if it is game changing,” Hizbollah’s leader sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in a recent televised address.
“We are ready to preserve these weapons and we are capable of having these weapons and we will repulse the aggression against our people, country and holy places with these weapons.”
Israel’s population is concentrated on its coast. It has also just begun pumping natural gas from its Tamar and Leviathan fields.
But, relative to the power and size of the Israeli army and air force, the Israeli navy is the poor relation. It has been lobbying for a bigger share of the defence budget to try to meet the growing threat from Hizbollah, and others, from the sea.
Israel’s coast is its soft underbelly.
For now much of the Jewish State’s maritime security rests with Dvora class patrol boats capable of high speed, up to 45 knots.
They have controversially been deployed as part of the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. A fisherman from Gaza was recently wounded by the Israeli navy which opened fire on him.
On the northern border Israeli soldiers scan the waves for signs of frogmen, jet skis or flotsam disguising Heibollah infiltrators.
“This border has been quiet but things have been sizzling in the north something could happen any time,” said the ship’s captain Lieutenant Yonatan Werner.
Source: Sky News