The Israeli army argued that villagers had not been inconvenienced by the exercises.

"The villages' population was not harassed. No roads were closed and the residents were not bothered in their houses. As a rule, there was no contact with the population," a spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Urban warfare drills

The soldiers did not use live ammunition during the practice raids and urban warfare drills.

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Testimony of Israeli reserve soldier to Yesh Din rights group

The exercise was carried out on February 21 and "a similar drill was carried out at least one time in previous weeks," Yesh Din said in a statement.
  
"Another battalion is expected to carry out the drill in the coming weeks." it added.

One soldier who took part in the exercise told Yesh Din: "... suddenly you're in the middle of a village shouting "fire fire fire."  It looked so crazy, and I think the residents there got a heart attack. There were residents who went to pray at those hours. There was no instruction on how to deal with them".

Yesh Din protest

Sfard sent a letter to Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit, the Israeli military advocate general, protesting about the exercises.

"The villagers were frightened by the sudden presence of military forces... Families woke from their sleep because of the sounds of the exercise and those heading for morning prayers suffered great shock and fright," he wrote.

"To the best of my knowledge," Sfarad wrote, "army regulations forbid carrying out exercises in settled areas without previously co-ordinating them with the local population and informing the relevant civilian authorities."

The human rights group asked the military advocate general to investigate the matter.

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