Israel has never been better prepared for an all-out war that could see thousands of missiles fired into the country, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Sirens sounded nationwide at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and civilians were asked to enter bomb shelters and safe rooms to drill how to respond during a conflict.
Siren sounds as nation drills response to missile attack
IDF drill will sound air sirens in morning, evening
The “Turning Point 5” drill started on Sunday and simulated a war with Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon in which more than 10,000 missiles and rockets – including some with chemical warheads – were fired into Israel, killing hundreds of Israelis, wounding over 20,000 and causing hundreds of thousands to be evacuated from their homes.
“The drill has gone surprisingly well in every aspect, and we are still working to bridge the gaps we discovered,” Vilna’i said. “This is the fifth such exercise, and we are far better prepared today than we were five years ago.
“Today, all government ministries and agencies are synchronized and there is no longer any argument over who is responsible for what.”
On Wednesday morning, the cabinet met in a bunker near Jerusalem that was recently built to serve as its office during wartime.
During the meeting, the IDF presented the results of the exercise as well as recommendations for improvement.
Vilna’i said that his office, which until now has worked as part of the Defense Ministry, has received approval from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to become an independent government ministry with authority over the home front. Its main division will be the National Emergency Management Authority, established following the Second Lebanon War.
The cabinet decided to allocate NIS 1.2 billion to buy gas masks for the remaining 40 percent of the public that will still be without them by the end of the year.
Vilna’i said the budget would be spread out over a number of years, but that eventually every citizen would receive a gas mask.
The scenario simulated during the drill was completely realistic, he said.
“I wish it wasn’t – but this is the scenario that we came up with by analyzing our enemies’ capabilities,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we need to understand that we are also powerful, and that we have established deterrence against Hezbollah and Hamas, which is why they are currently not attacking us. They also need to know that if they do attack us in the future, we will hit them hard and fast.”
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz predicted that a conflict with Hezbollah and Syria would not occur soon.
“I don't foresee us entering a conflict any time soon. But reality is uncertain, and it has the ability to change from one situation to another in a matter of hours,” he said.
“It is important to continue to train properly,” Gantz stressed. “Lessons will be learned from this exercise, which we will continue next year.”
Also speaking about the drill on Wednesday, former OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin warned that the missiles aimed at Israel today targeted not only peripheral communities such as Sderot and Kiryat Shmona, but also Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
“These missiles will not disappear, even if a peace agreement with the Palestinians is signed,” Yadlin said on the second day of the President’s Conference in Jerusalem.
The Knesset also took part in the exercise on Wednesday, stopping a plenum discussion for 10 minutes and evacuating to the building’s bomb shelter.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the parliamentarians “attribute special importance to the Knesset’s taking part in this exercise – not just as citizens of the state, but because we are under threat and a target for attack.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.