Long-range missiles in Hizbullah hands and capable of reaching Tel Aviv could cause unprecedented damage and destruction, Col. Yechiel Kuperstein, head of the Home Front Command's Physical Protection Department, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Last Thursday, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened to fire missiles at Tel Aviv in response to IAF strikes on Beirut. "If you bomb our capital Beirut... We will bomb Tel Aviv," he said.
Kuperstein said Sunday that while the IDF took Nasrallah's threat seriously and was preparing accordingly, the instructions for residents of the Gush Dan region - from Hadera to Tel Aviv - remained the same as they were when the war with Hizbullah erupted. Residents were to maintain a high level of alert and were instructed to run for cover if an alarm was sounded.
Residents of Tel Aviv, Kuperstein said, would have at least one minute from when sirens went off before an incoming missile struck. Residents inside homes, he said, should enter security rooms or stairwells and people outdoors should try to enter nearby buildings.
"We take every threat seriously," he said, "especially when we know that Hizbullah has missiles that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv."
Hizbullah is known to have Iranian-made Zelzal-5 missiles that are said to have a 200-kilometer range. IDF sources said that while most of Hizbullah's long-range rockets were destroyed in the first day of fighting, it still retained the ability to fire long-range missiles at Tel Aviv. Intelligence officials were split on whether Nasrallah would decide to fire them, a move that would certainly escalate the conflict and would, sources said, draw a harsh response.
On Friday, Hizbullah fired at least two long-range missiles that hit Hadera, some 90 km. south of the Lebanese border, the deepest since fighting began last month.
"The long-range missiles that can reach Tel Aviv are capable of causing great damage, like the Scuds fired by Iraq caused during the first Gulf War," Kuperstein said. However, he stressed, the missiles - even in a direct hit - were not capable of toppling a new, well-built apartment building in Tel Aviv.