News / Middle East

    Israel Launches 5-Day Civil Defense Drill

    Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command take part in a drill simulating a building collapse following a mock rocket attack at Zikim army base, near the southern city of Ashkelon, June 19, 2011
    Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command take part in a drill simulating a building collapse following a mock rocket attack at Zikim army base, near the southern city of Ashkelon, June 19, 2011
    Robert Berger

    With the Middle East in turmoil, Israel is preparing for the possibility of a regional war.  

    As part of preparations for such a scenario the country has begun a five-day civil-defense drill to deal with the threat of a massive missile and rocket bombardment from several fronts: Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Gili Shenhar is a spokesman for the Israeli army's Home Front Command, which is leading the exercise.

    "We understand that in the Middle East, we have to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios. So we are going to conduct all kind of scenarios including unconventional weapons."

    In one exercise, authorities will simulate the evacuation of 300,000 people from hard hit areas to safer ground.

    "We are going to conduct, also, drills that will be in the field, like hospitals, like all kinds of airplanes that crash, like taking people and evacuating from several places.  So this is going to be a very big drill with all local authorities in Israel."

    The drill takes place against the backdrop of Iran's nuclear program and its threats to wipe Israel "off the map."  Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the United States believe Teheran is developing nuclear weapons.

    Israel has threatened to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, though defense officials warn that could spark a major regional war. In a worst-case scenario, Iran would bombard Israel with missiles and be joined by its well-armed regional allies: Syria, and the Islamic militant groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.  

    Shenhar says the Home Front Command hopes to raise public awareness through the exercise.

    "The goal with the public is really to understand that we have to prepare, and if you prepare in advance, it is much better for the public and for us."

    The army says that in the event of a war fought on several fronts, up to 800 missiles and rockets a day could be fired into Israel.

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