War drill set to test responses to chemical attack

Home Front Defense Minister Erdan says enemies have despaired at trying to conquer us so will try to terrorize civilians.

May 22, 2013 01:33
3 minute read.
A DRILL at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba tests responses to a chemical weapons attack.

chemical weapons drill370 . (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson )

Authorities will hold a war drill next week based on the scenario of missiles pouring in from multiple fronts, with some carrying chemical warheads. The “targets” in the drill include population centers and strategic facilities.

Named “Steadfast Home Front 1,” the exercise will simulate the firing of missiles from Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, and will include two air-raid sirens that will ring out across the country next Monday, May 27.

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During the sirens, members of the public are encouraged to seek a preselected safe zone and drill their responses to missile attack.

The first siren will sound at 12:30 p.m., and is mainly aimed at schools and work places, while the second, at 7:05 p.m., is to drill families at home.

The drill will test the responses of all first responders – police, firefighters, and paramedics – as well as the IDF Home Front Command and national and local government, said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

“This is one of the lessons the government and emergency responders learned from the Second Lebanon War, when they were caught unprepared, and suffered from a lack of coordination,” Erdan said.

He added that the risk of an actual chemical attack on Israel was low, and that the main threat remained a conventional missile attack. Some enemy projectiles have conventional warheads made up of several hundred kilograms of explosives, Erdan said.

“Today, the scenarios we see are different than before. We see Hamas equipping itself in the south, and we see the abilities of Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran,” Erdan added.

“Our enemies have despaired of trying to conquer Israel and will try to exhaust and terrorize Israeli civilians instead,” the minister said.

“We once asked if the enemy would dare fire missiles on Ashkelon, Tel Aviv… and Haifa. I think these questions no longer have a place. The answer is clear. The question now is, when will they fire on population centers? It can happen tonight, or next week.”

During the drill, authorities will simulate hundreds of missiles striking the Gush Dan metropolitan area in central Israel. Erdan said the home front’s ability to contend with that scenario is “no less important than the IDF’s offensive capabilities.”

Home Front Command head Maj- Gen. Eyal Eizenberg said that any future war would result in significantly higher casualties among Israeli civilians than past conflicts. He described the Second Lebanon War as a “taste, but not more” of a future clash.

The Iron Dome rocket interception system will not be able to defend civilians in the event of attacks from northern arenas, Eizenberg stressed.

“The home front will experience what it has not experienced in the past, should such a conflict erupt. We have to reach a place where the home front is strong, and decision makers are free to operate,” he added.

Eizenberg also had a warning for Israel’s enemies.

“Israel has offensive destructive powers many times more powerful than that of our neighbors. I suggest that before they power up their engines, our neighbors weigh up their decision carefully,” he said.

Asked by the The Jerusalem Post whether current tensions with Syria meant that the timing for such a national drill was less than ideal, Eizenberg responded, “It will only advance our preparedness if something happens in our area.”

He went on to say that responses to chemical attacks are primarily about effective command and control capabilities.

“That’s what we are testing,” Eizenberg said.

Gabi Ophir, director-general of the Homeland Security Ministry, said that even though the chances of chemical missiles are “very unlikely, we’re taking no chances.”

Next Thursday, a day after the end of the exercise, Erdan will brief fellow ministers on the week’s events in a meeting that will be attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The homeland security minister will then spend the following two months assessing the results of the drill.

“We will test the full range of our alert systems… from air sirens to social media networks, to media outlets… to cell phones. All of the tools at our disposal,” Ophir said.

According to the Home Front Command, civilians outdoors who hear a siren should seek shelter. If there is none, they should lie on the ground with their hands on their heads. If they are in a vehicle, they should pull over and seek shelter. If there is none around, they should follow the same steps as above.

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