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Syria Plans Emergency Drill amid Fears of War with Israel


Syria is beefing up security on its home front in a sign of escalating tension with Israel. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, there are war jitters on both sides of the border.

As Israel conducts a big civil-defense drill this week, Syria will hold an unprecedented exercise to test the readiness of the home front for a possible Israeli attack. The drill was announced on state-run Radio Damascus.

The announcement said the drill will take place in all of Syria's provinces and will test the country's readiness and ability to handle natural disasters and other emergencies.

At the same time, Israel is conducting a five-day home front exercise to test preparedness for missile attacks with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

In a test on Tuesday, air-raid sirens wailed across Israel, sending school children running to bomb shelters.

The exercises in both countries point to escalating tensions. The armies of Israel and Syria have raised their alert levels, amid fears that Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon might launch an attack that could plunge the region into war.

Hezbollah has threatened "open war" against Israel for the assassination of one of its leaders, Imad Moughniyeh, in a car bombing in Damascus two months ago. Israel denied involvement.

"What we have is a very tense situation because both Hezbollah and Syria want to hit Israel in revenge for the killing of Moughniyeh, and it can get out of hand; and the Syrians are wary that if Hezbollah starts something against Israel, Israel may respond not only vis-à-vis Hizbollah, but also vis-a vis Syria," said Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan.

A Hezbollah cross-border raid in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and two kidnapped in 2006 sparked a monthl-long Israeli air and ground assault on Lebanon. Analysts say a miscalculation could spark another war that neither Israel nor Syria really wants.

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