Defense official: Home front drill may determine outcome of next war
Largest ever home front exercise begins Sunday to evaluate preparedness for various scenarios, including rocket attacks, planting of dirty bomb and hazardous material incident. 'Our enemies consider home front to be Israel's soft spot,' IDF source says
Israel's largest ever home front exercise is set to begin Sunday morning as part of the emergency authorities' preparation for a number of possible scenarios, including an electronic attack against the country.
The drill, code-named Turning Point 4, will simulate the firing of hundreds of missiles from different fronts.
Similar, smaller-sized drills were conducted in 2009 and 2008.
The security establishment stressed that the exercise was scheduled in advance as part of a yearly work plan.
The National Emergency Management Authority, Israel Police, Magen David Adom, the Israeli fire department, government offices and municipalities are expected to take an active role in the exercise.
According to defense officials, the emphasis of this year's exercise will be on the response of local authorities to a military emergency. Drills will be held in 68 cities and towns that are home to about 70 percent of Israel's population.
"These types of exercises will not only reduce the number of Israeli casualties in the next conflict, they may determine the conflict's outcome," a senior defense official told Ynet on Saturday.
'Correct response may reduce uncertainty'
At 11 am Wednesday sirens will sound across the country, at which time all residents are to go to bomb shelters or other protected spaces. Drills will be held in schools, as well.
During the exercise emergency units and municipalities will also simulate the derailing of a train in Hadera, a rocket attack on the Haifa area, an incident involving hazardous material at Haifa's port, a water shortage in Kfar Shmariyahu, the planting of a "dirty" bomb at a Jerusalem school and an attack on military facilities in Beit Lid.
Eight communities will practice the speedy distribution of gas masks.
"During a war, the home front will go through a trying time," an army official said, "Apart from the mental anguish, some areas will face various crises, and the correct response may reduce the uncertainty."
"The drill is based on operative plans and lessons drawn from Operation Cast Lead," said the official.
"A strong home front, which is considered by our enemies as the country's 'soft spot', will give the IDF more time to do its job," he added.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday lashed out at Israel's defense exercises and said they ran counter to current Middle East peace efforts.
"Israel has to go to the negotiating table in order to achieve peace. To launch military exercises at such a time runs counter to peace efforts," Hariri told reporters in Cairo after a meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
"How can you launch peace negotiations with the Palestinians while holding military maneuvers?" asked Hariri, who is to travel to Washington on Sunday for his first visit as premier.
On Friday, Lebanon's Hezbollah mobilized thousands of militants in southern Lebanon in response to the exercises, said an official from the Shiite group which is backed by Damascus and Tehran.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that destroyed much of southern Lebanon, largely a Hezbollah stronghold. It estimates Hezbollah has since stockpiled more than 40,000 rockets.
AFP contributed to the report