Home Front Command chief: 'We made mistakes'

OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon admits to mistakes a day before the largest emergency and rescue exercise since the Second Lebanon War.

A day before the largest emergency and rescue exercise since the Second Lebanon War, OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon admitted Monday that the IDF made mistakes during its treatment of the home front during the 33 days of rocket attacks on northern Israel. Gershon said that the criticism of the IDF in a state comptroller's report on the management of the home front during the war did not come as a surprise. Gershon petitioned the High Court and succeeded in preventing the publication of the report - which is believed to be highly critical of his command - until he has an opportunity to file a response. "We made mistakes and the people who made these mistakes need to receive support before a report is distributed to the public," he said. Four thousand rockets struck northern Israel during the war this past summer. Starting Tuesday, the IDF Home Front Command, the Israel Police, Magen David Adom, the Fire and Rescue Service and other emergency services will begin a two-day massive exercise throughout the country, practicing a number of extreme scenarios including mega-terror and non-conventional missile attacks. The drill is the largest in Israeli history and will implement lessons learned from last summer's war in Lebanon. The drill will include the sounding of a siren for a minute-and-a-half at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon throughout the country. The Home Front Command decided not to sound the siren in the North or around the Gaza periphery for fear it would cause panic. According to Cmdr. Berti Oahyun, head of Police Operations, 5,000 policemen will participate in the exercise, which will cost taxpayers close to NIS 2 million. The purpose of the exercise, Gershon said, was to drill the simultaneous operation of all Israeli emergency services. "This is a two-fold effort - civilian and military - that we are checking to see how it operates together," the general said. "The exercise was planned in conjunction with the police and will demonstrate lessons that have been learned since the Lebanon war." He said that the exercise will drill a number of extreme scenarios, including Al-Qaida inspired mega-terror attacks as well as non-conventional - including chemical, biological and nuclear - missile attacks. Security forces will simulate a missile attack on a three-story building in Netanya, during which they will be required to save trapped civilians. Other drills will include a simulated missile attack on a power station in Tel Aviv, as well as missile attacks in Petah Tikva, Jaffa, and Beersheba. "We will drill mega-terror scenarios that can come from the Al-Qaida school and non-conventional attacks like the one in Iraq this week," he said in reference to a suicide attack involving two chlorine-filled tankers near Baghdad on Saturday. Gershon added Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that the exercise was "unusual" in its size but was meant to "prepare the IDF, the Israel Police and the State of Israel" for future threats. In reference to the State Comptroller's Report, Sneh - who is in charge of preparing the Home Front - said: "We are in an advanced process and there is no point in waiting for any committee or report."