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(photo credit: Ricki Rosen)
With Iran racing to obtain nuclear weapons, the IDF Home Front Command (HFC) has shifted its focus since the war in Lebanon and is now investing most of its efforts in confronting the threat of non-conventional weapons of mass destruction (WMD), a high-ranking officer revealed Monday.
The officer said the HFC was in the process of developing new technological means to deal with chemical and biological threats. The Jerusalem Post has learned that the HFC was in the process of developing mobile air-purification containers that could be brought to areas infected by chemical or biological weapons and purify the air.
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According to an officer involved in the development, the containers would minimize the number of dead and wounded during a chemical attack since they would quickly purify air infected by deadly chemical agents.
Part of the reason for the shift in the HFC's focus was due to the defense establishment's realization that following the war in Lebanon - during which close to 4,000 missiles were fired at the North - Israel was facing a major threat from ballistic missiles. Iran has developed the Shihab-3 missile that can reportedly carry a 500 kg.-650 kg. warhead and has a range of between 1,550 to 1,620 km.
"As was demonstrated during the war in Lebanon, the other side is investing all of its resources in missiles," a high-ranking IAF officer said Monday. "We therefore need to provide answers to deal with this threat offensively but also defensively, once the missiles are already launched."
The growing assessment within the defense establishment is that facing a nuclear Iran, Israel will find itself in a "lose-lose situation," as one senior defense official put it. "If Iran is attacked, long-range missiles will land in Israel," the official said. "If, on the other hand, nothing is done militarily, Israel will find itself under a constant nuclear threat from Iran."
The Post has further learned that in high-level talks with Israeli officials, senior Egyptian officials close to President Hosni Mubarak have given their discreet support for international efforts to stop Iran's race to obtain nuclear capability.
The Egyptian officials told their Israeli counterparts that according to their estimates, Iran will obtain a nuclear bomb within five years and must be stopped. Unlike Egypt, Israel has said that the point of no return regarding Iran's nuclear program was a few months away and at the point when the Islamic Republic would have independent research, development know-how and the ability to continue its program without outside help.
While the Egyptians gave their support to Israeli diplomatic efforts to stop Iran, the officials also called for the denuclearization of the entire Middle East. The assumption within the defense establishment is that an Iranian success at developing nuclear weapons would lead to a race among other countries in the region - including Egypt and possibly Saudi Arabia - to also begin their own independent nuclear programs.
Meanwhile Monday, Iran said that reports it was ready to consider temporarily freezing uranium enrichment were "just a misconception," but did not rule out that the proposal was being discussed in negotiations with Europe.
Iran has been largely silent amid signs from European officials of some progress in the crucial talks over Iran's nuclear program. Europeans are seeking a freeze in enrichment to avoid imposing United Nations sanctions on Iran and allow broader negotiations to begin.
Iran's comments Monday did little to clarify its position on the suspension issue.
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian official warned against UN sanctions, saying his country would respond by cutting international inspections of its nuclear program.
Government spokesman Gholan Hossein Elham said in Teheran that any mention of Iran agreeing to suspend its nuclear program, even temporarily, was "just a misconception." Both sides of the negotiation "have not reached any conclusion in this regard," Elham said.
AP contributed to the report.