IDF holds int'l search & rescue seminar

Officials from 11 nations discuss ways to confront non-conventional threats.

With Iran racing to obtain nuclear weapons, a group of military officers and rescue services from 11 different countries gathered Tuesday at the IDF Home Front Command's (HFC) training school to watch a search-and-rescue drill and share ideas on confronting non-conventional threats. The foreign officials were in Israel for the fourth international search-and-rescue seminar organized by Lt.-Col. Itai Peleg of the Home Front Command, during which the group participates in rescue drills, hears lectures from professionals and tours the country. "The IDF has vast experience in search-and-rescue operations from events in Israel and abroad," explained Peleg. "We offer to share our experiences with other countries since this is about the most important thing - saving lives and civil defense." Peleg said that 11 countries sent representatives to participate in the weeklong seminar, including military officers from the US, Nigeria, Kenya, Austria, France, India and Greece. Last year, Jordan sent a representative to participate in the seminar. Col. Muhammad Tasiu Ibraham of the Nigerian army said he came to the seminar to learn new ways to deal with non-conventional threats. "Our interest is in the field of chemical and biological threats and how Israel is prepared for them," he said. Mark Kramer, head of the California Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) national taskforce, said Israel was at the "top of the game" when it came to urban search and rescue. Kramer said he led rescue operations during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans last year and at the site of the Oklahoma bombing in 1995. "The more you practice, the better you are," Kramer explained, adding that while Israel lived under the constant threat of missile attacks, in the US his taskforce prepared mainly for natural disasters like earthquakes as well as 9/11-like terrorist attacks. Peleg said the HFC also gained from the seminar. "When you exchange ideas and talk about methods, equipment and overall doctrine we all benefit," he said, explaining that the search-and-rescue field was constantly adapting to new threats and challenges.