War simulation drill shows room for improvement

Air raid sirens to sound tomorrow morning and night as defense ministry preps for several possible calamities.

By
June 21, 2011 01:42
3 minute read.
Bus stop at Kibbutz Kfar Aza has bomb shelters.

kibbutz kfar aza_311. (photo credit: (Liat Collins))

 
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Israel entered its 10th day of simulated war on Monday, after close to 7,000 rockets and missiles – some with chemical warheads – struck throughout the country, killing close to 600 people and wounding another 18,000.

As the death toll continues to rise, the IDF has launched ground offensives in southern Lebanon and Syria in an effort to reduce the missile fire.

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While the ground operations are impairing Hezbollah’s and Syria’s ability to fire short-range rockets – like the more than 4,000 fired by Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 – it was not hurting their ability to fire long-range missiles into Tel Aviv, since these missiles are deployed deeper inside Lebanon and Syria.

As the missile fire continues, an immediate flaw that stands out is the lack of gas masks among Israel’s population.

By the end of 2011, only 60 percent of Israelis will have gas masks, and with chemical missiles hitting Tel Aviv, Haifa and the Golan Heights, certain parts of the country have come to a standstill.

This “war” was imaginary and simulated at the Defense Ministry on Monday, during the second day of the nationwide civil-defense exercise called “Turning Point 5.” According to Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, the drill is 100 percent realistic.

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“I wish these scenarios were all imaginary and were all our invention,” Vilna’i told The Jerusalem Post on Monday during a tour of the exercise command. “Anyone, though, who is a professional and deals with these issues knows that these are real scenarios and events that can definitely happen.”

The main parts of the exercise, overseen by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) is being conducted in two parts of the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv – one in a large conference room filled with policemen, soldiers and representatives of the Prisons Service, the other in a large tent filled with desks for each government ministry.

“The idea is to get everyone to sit together, to get to know one another and to speak a common language,” Vilna’i explained. “We need to understand that just as there is a military front where the soldiers are fighting, there is also a civilian front, and that is what we are trying to protect.”

Some 80 municipalities and local authorities are participating in the exercise, which will reach its peak on Wednesday when air raid sirens will sound twice throughout the country – once in the morning and once at night.

NEMA has incorporated the threat of cyberwarfare, hacking to conduct sabotage and espionage, into the drill, as well as the effect that damage to critical infrastructure, like the water system or the electricity grid, could have on the country in a war.

Over the past year, NEMA has mapped out the nation’s critical infrastructure and instructed relevant authorities on what needs to be protected from cyberwarfare. In a state of emergency – for example, if the water system is attacked – NEMA is responsible for deciding which communities or facilities continue to receive water and where it is diverted to. The same applies to electricity.

“A country that relies heavily on computer systems will face advantages and disadvantages,” Vilna’i said. “We are dealing with this all the time, and we are in the beginning stages of what is a complex reality.”

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