Iran Temple mount

Iranian forces “capture” the “Temple Mount.” (AP/Tasnim News Agency, Mahmoud Hosseini)

Iranian forces staged a mock “defensive” attack on the Al-Aqsa mosque, but, strangely, used a model of the Dome of the Rock.

Paramilitary forces from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) have held a war game simulating the capture of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israeli control, the Islamic Republic’s state media reported Saturday.

It said forces stormed and “liberated” a replica of the mosque in the exercise. Thousands of members of the Basij, the volunteer paramilitary unit of the Guard, participated in Friday’s exercise outside the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

The symbolic operations were backed up by Guard helicopters, drones and Tucano planes that bombed hypothetical enemy positions before ground troops captured a replica of the gold-domed Dome of the Rock mosque set up at the top of a mountain.

In a common mistake, the Guard set up a plastic replica of the Dome of the Rock mosque instead of the nearby gray-domed Al-Aqsa mosque. Official photos showed one of the troops going to the top of the dome and waving an Iranian flag and a red flag, a symbol of martyrdom.

Iran’s Fars News quoted one Basij commander who said ambiguously the drills were organized “to exercise preparedness to fight against possible threats in the region.”

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guard’s aerospace division, said his force deployed Shahed-129, or Witness-129, drones during the war games. The drone, unveiled in 2013, has a range of 1,700 kilometers (1,050 miles), a 24-hour nonstop flight capability and can carry eight bombs or missiles.

Even so, the exercise appeared to be largely for show. Iranian commanders have not said how they would be able to deploy large numbers of forces against Israel, located 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away, or overcome Israel’s powerful and technologically advanced military.

Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, frequently expresses solidarity with the Palestinians and holds an annual “Jerusalem Day” event each year on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan. Iran does not recognize Israel, has called for its destruction and supports terrorism across the Middle East.

Israeli officials declined to comment on the war games.

The Temple Mount has been at the heart of weeks of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. The current round of Palestinian terror attacks was sparked in part by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over the site — a charge that Israel vehemently denies. Palestinian rioting at the mosque erupted in September, and quickly spread across Israel.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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