Nationwide Home Front drill hits snags
Sirens sound throughout Israel at 11 am, civilians asked to enter sheltered areas as part of large exercise simulating two-front war; however, sirens fail to go off, some sheltered areas remain closed. 'What will happen in a real emergency?' employee at Rosh Ha'ayin industrial park asks
The nationwide Home Front drill titled "Turning Point 3", which was launched on Sunday, culminated at 11 am Tuesday when sirens sounded throughout the country and residents were asked to enter sheltered areas.
However, several malfunctions were reported. In some parts of the country, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the sirens did not sound at all or were weak, and in others sheltered public areas remained closed.
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Ganit Zelikovitch, an employee at the Rosh Ha'ayin industrial park, told Ynet that the siren did not sound there. "There are buildings full of people here; what will happen in case of a real emergency?" she said. "Thousands of people are at risk. As usual, the 'it'll be okay' attitude has taken over."
Tel Aviv schoolchildren during drill (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Malfunctions were also reported in the central Israel city of Ramat-Gan. "The siren did not sound at all in the whole Elite Intersection area," a resident said, "It's a shame that all the preparations went down the drain. We were planning to go down to the shelters, but ended up working as usual."
Yehuda Cohen of Arad said residents of the southern community had no problem hearing the siren but had a hard time "seeking shelter" during the drill. "Ten of us arrived at the neighborhood shelter only to find that it remained closed. We waited for half an hour but no one came to open it. I called the police and they said it was the Home Front's responsibility, so we went home."
The mayor of Kiryat Shmona, which was attacked with Katyusha rockets during the Second Lebanon War, said "the drill may become a painful routine, as we experienced for dozens of years and during one month in the summer of 2006."
In Israel's southern region, the Home Front simulated a rocket attack on Dimona's central bus station, and in the Ramat Hovev Council local security forces simulated a deadly rocket attack.
More than 2,000 sirens were used in the drill, during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his staff also entered a secure area.
Before the siren sounded, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilani explained that "the purpose of the siren is to affect the consciousness of the Israeli public. Every citizen of the state should know that an emergency drill can take place anytime anywhere, and how they should act.
"We trust that the public will play an active role in the drill."
Some shelters remained closed (Photo: Yaron Brener)
The scope of this year's exercise was expected to be larger than ever. Last year only school children and government employees were asked to go into shelters at the sounding of the alarm.
After two days during which various security branches simulated war scenarios involving the landing of hundreds of missiles and rockets on Israel, on Tuesday civilians were asked to take part in the drill.
"The drill is particularly important in places where dozens or hundreds of people are located… this will no doubt help decrease the level of hysteria and feeling of uncertainty in the event of a real emergency," a senior security official said.
The scenarios simulated in the exercise include war on the northern and southern borders and the outbreak of an internal intifada among Israel's Arabs.