An unannounced police drill involving other security forces caused huge traffic jams nationwide Thursday afternoon.
Among the scenarios practiced in the drill was a terrorist takeover of two sites in Tel Aviv and mock negotiations with hostage-takers, Tel Aviv District Police Chief Shahar Ilan said.
As part of the exercise, authorities blocked various roads in central Israel while police forces deployed nationwide en masse. The drill involves all of Israel's emergency and rescue forces, including the IDF, Shin Bet, Fire department, Magen David Adom, and Israel Prison Service.
Police officials say that a special administration was set up by the Border Guard in order to plan and prepare the major exercise in line with existing threats. Some parts of the drill required the use of civilian "extras" in order to simulate real-time events.
Motorists frustrated (Photo: Ido Erez)
Among other roads, the Ayalon Freeway in Tel Aviv was blocked in some sections, as well as the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway. Elsewhere, the Coastal Road was also blocked in one interchange, as police practiced their response to a major road accident.
The drill, codenamed Heavenly Angels, is being led by Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen as part of the police's regular training plan for preparing to face various threats. Police officials stressed that the exercise was not undertaken in response to any concrete information or threat.
Medics in action (Photo: Yaron Brener)
'Tel Aviv is like a pedestrian mall'
The drill was kept secret until Thursday morning, and was expanded by afternoon, prompting especially huge traffic jams in Tel Aviv. Local resident Ofer told Ynet he never saw such unusual sight."I've been living here for 38 years and I've never seen anything like it," he said. "Tel Aviv is like a pedestrian mall; people are walking on the road like they do in Yom Kippur. Motorists are coming out of their cars."
"It's unclear why they didn't announce it in advance," he said. "I would have stayed home."
Vered, another Tel Aviv motorist, said "There's never been anything like this." She left the court towards Ramat Aviv, and "after three quarters of an hour I've hardly moved." She also had serious qualms with the police.
"This is what they do on Thursday afternoon? It's unbelievable. I've never been so long in a traffic jam in my life," she said.
Police deploy nationwide (Photo: Yaron Brener)
The exercise's spokesman, Chief Superintendent Moshe Pinchi, told Ynet: "The proportional harm is an indication of the importance that the Israel Police see in being ready for a major event, by holding an extensive nationwide exercise.
He emphasized that "The exercise requires that we cope with real-life circumstances, which meant closing various areas."
"Updates will be issued throughout the day to motorists regarding closed roads and diversions," he said. "Alternative routes will also be suggested in an effort to reduce the disturbances to regular life as much as possible."
Aviel Magnezi contributed to the story