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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The nationwide emergency home front drill that will start on Sunday may not be connected to intelligence about an imminent attack on Israel, but it is strongly based on regional trends.
It starts after a month of missile tests, some closer to Israel and others farther away, but all indicative of the looming threat the country faces. A week-and-a-half ago it was Iran that test-fired the Sajil 2, a new ballistic missile, powered by solid-fuel propellant that can carry a non-conventional warhead and fly over 2,000 kilometers.
Last week, it was North Korea's turn to test not only a nuclear weapon but also several long and medium-range rockets. While Israel is not geographically threatened by North Korea, the close cooperation between Pyongyang, Syria and Iran - including the joint development of long-range missiles as well as non-conventional weapons - is a further demonstration of the missile threat that Israel faces.
The decision to involve the civilian population in this week's drill - with Tuesday's air siren - was not an easy one for the Defense Ministry. On the one hand, there was a fear that the public's involvement would sow fear and panic and possibly even disrupt people's daily lives.
On the other hand, the winning consideration was the fact that since 2006 Israel has fought two wars on two different fronts - against Hizbullah and Hamas - during which a total of close to 5,000 rockets were fired into Israeli towns and cities.
The missile threat is not restricted to Lebanon and Gaza. Syria has also spent the last few years investing in a ballistic missile capability and today has a significant number of Scud C and Scud D missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel and carry chemical and biological warheads. With talk of a possible Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel also needs to prepare for the possibility that Sajils and Shihabs will also land throughout the country.
The investment by Israel's enemies in ballistic missiles stems from a number of reasons but primarily a financial consideration. The missiles that Iran and Syria have are mostly developed domestically, sometimes with outside help from countries like North Korea. Hizbullah's arsenal is mostly made up of short-range Katyushas that cost just a few hundred dollars, not to mention Hamas's weapon of choice, the Kassam, which is believed to cost even less.
All of these countries cannot afford to purchase and maintain a fleet of multi-role fighter jets. Syria's and Iran's air forces are practically obsolete and the aircraft they have are easily overcome by the Israeli Air Force's advanced fleet of F-15s and F-16s.
Aware also of the difficulty in defeating Israel's well-trained ground forces, the enemies invest in missiles to shift the war from the conventional battlefield to the home front and to keep Israeli forces - both on the ground and in the air - busy trying to destroy the missile capability as opposed to destroying the enemy itself.