(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
As the Defense Ministry began the Turning Point 4 national civil defense exercise Sunday, Israel came under heavy simulated missile fire in what would be the 15th day of a mock all-out regional war with Hizbullah, Syria, Hamas and Iran.
Under the scenario being drilled, the IDF has been at war in the North for just over two weeks, and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i convened top IDF brass Sunday evening to assess the extent of damage to the country and the number of casualties.
As part of the drill, OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan informed Vilna’i of his decision to complete the draft of all Home Front Command reservists after close to 200 rockets and missiles, included ones with chemical warheads launched from Syria, landed in the center of the country.
The five-day drill will include the sounding of air sirens nationwide on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Residents are being asked to participate in the drill and to search for the nearest bomb shelter or safe room.
The focus of the drill is on 38 local councils, mostly from the center of the country, which are undergoing a series of simulations to test their ability to continue providing basic services for their residents at a time of war.
Under the scenario, most of the missiles were landing in the Gush Dan region in the center of the country, from which about 200,000 residents decided to flee south. The Eilat Municipality was asked, in the drill, to prepare a plan to absorb some of the refugees.
Defense officials stressed that while the drill was intended to prepare Israel for a realistic threat and potential war that could involve hundreds of daily missile attacks, it did not demonstrate any offensive intentions.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used the opening of the cabinet meeting Sunday to send a public message to Syria that the home front exercise was a routine event, and that Damascus did not need to feel threatened by it.
“This is the fourth year in which we are holding the exercise,” he said, adding that it had been in the works for “some time.”
“I would like to make it clear that it is not the result of any exceptional security development. On the contrary, Israel wants calm, stability and peace,” Netanyahu said.
“However, it is no secret that we live in a region that is under the threat of missiles and rockets. Israel’s best defense against this threat is – first of all – maintaining deterrence and the IDF’s decisive capability, and these we develop without letup.”
But in addition to maintaining deterrence, Netanyahu said it was
“important to bolster citizens’ awareness vis-à-vis the protection issue
– and this is exactly what this exercise will do, starting today and
running throughout the week.”
This was the second time this month that the prime minister has sought
to assuage Syrian fears emanating from an army exercise. Two weeks ago,
while observing a large-scale live-fire IDF exercise in the north,
Netanyahu said. “Israel wants peace, and has no intention of attacking
its neighbors, as opposed to the false rumors that have been circulated
about this matter.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak characterized the exercise Sunday as
“important” and a result of lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War.
“We have no intention at all of starting a war in the North,” he said.
“We are working toward the opposite, for calm and peace, but a country
like Israel has to be prepared, and we are preparing.”