PM declares 'emergency' in drill

Massive home front drill opens with massive "attacks" on Israel; dozens "killed" in war simulation.

idf drill 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
idf drill 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared a state of emergency Monday following "a barrage of hundreds of missiles from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip," as the country's largest-ever emergency exercise, "Turning Point 2," continues. Dozens of Israeli civilians were "killed" on Sunday as Israel went to "war" with Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas on the first day of the exercise. The five-day drill opened with an announcement by Olmert at the weekly cabinet meeting of an outbreak of hostilities following the firing of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel by Hizbullah in Lebanon. The simulated conflict quickly escalated and by the afternoon - representing the fourth day of the "war" - Israel was also "being hit by Syrian missiles and Hamas-fired Kassams and Katyushas." A defense official involved in the exercise said that according to the National Emergency Authority - in charge of the drill - by the fourth day of the "war" several dozen civilians had been "killed" by the missiles. The official said that it was possible that by Monday, Israel would also start getting "hit" by Iranian Shihab-3 ballistic missiles. At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, sirens will blast nationwide; civilians are asked to use the few moments to locate the closest bomb shelter or protected room. During the exercise, rescue services will drill mass evacuations from "hit zones" - including chemical and biological attacks - and hospitals will drill their ability to treat thousands of "injured." Only some of the scenarios guiding the drill - drawn up by the recently-formed National Emergency Authority and the Defense Ministry - can be revealed to the public, a police source said. "There's no cause for alarm - these are intended purely as exercises," said Yoram Ohayon, the head of the police's operations division. "As far as I know, there is no concrete information that any kind of missile is going to be fired at Israel. This exercise is aimed at optimizing the complex inter-organizational response that is needed for a mass-casualty incident," he said, speaking by phone from the police's national operations room in Jerusalem. "As soon as a threat penetrates Israel's borders, the police are the designated first-responders. Every incident has its own drawer plan, and if, God forbid, a threat does materialize, we will know how to deal with it," Ohayon said. The largest "incident" during the drill will take place in the Haifa Port area on Wednesday, when police and rescue services will simulate an explosion at a major chemical plant. "This is our worst-case scenario, which is why we chose it for this week's drill," said Moshe Weizmann, spokesman for the Northern Police District. During the exercise, police officers and rescue services will put on bio-chemical protection suits to shield them from the hazardous materials that could contaminate the site, and will attempt to evacuate "victims." "They will only have a window of opportunity of a few minutes to do this," Weizmann said. "For the first time, the lessons of the Second Lebanon War will be applied and examined. First, police will arrive on the scene, and they will be followed by officials from the Home Front Command, who will take charge," he added. On Wednesday, the police's Southern District will simulate an emergency situation that includes a major incident in Ashkelon, Southern District chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev told The Jerusalem Post. "We will examine police responses to missile attacks as well as unconventional weapons attacks." The district had been preparing for the worst over the past several months, he added. "Just last month, Lachish police simulated a chemical attack. We also had to make preparations for the possibility of a mass Palestinian storming of the Gaza border," he said. "We're constantly engaged in counterterrorism, with a focus on Gaza and the South Hebron Hills. Now we will prepare for attacks that get through our defenses." In Tel Aviv, police were a little more guarded about the emergency scenarios they had been asked to drill, but a spokeswoman did say, "One of our threats will be a sea-based attack." Firefighters were set to accompany the police in each simulated incident, and will use the drill to rehearse weapons-of-mass-destruction scenarios, Galilee Operations fire chief Amir Levi said. This week's drill was also due to include hundreds of mobile intensive care units and ambulances manned by paramedics, medics and other Magen David Adom staffers. For the first time, a new underground shelter will function in Haifa during the drill, which will involve 10 ambulances, two mobile intensive care units, a mobile headquarters, 26 MDA medics and paramedics, and IDF medics. After the Second Lebanon War, it was decided to build the 600-square-meter underground shelter, at a cost of NIS 1.5 million. MDA staffers would be able to stay there for a long time - with their families - and be able to emerge and provide help at all times while knowing their loved ones were safe. The shelter has all the control systems needed to coordinate rescue activity. On the last day of the exercise - Thursday - Emek Medical Center in Afula will be the site of a simulated strike by a chemical warfare missile. The hospital has been asked to cope with a conventional missile, but at a certain stage, the hospital will receive an alert of a chemical weapon, which will "hit" near the medical center. Around 300 simulated wounded - high school pupils and soldiers - will be rushed to the emergency room. In the first part of this exercise, the large visitors parking lot - which will be closed to the public - will be used to wash off the "victims." The staffers will wear special protective gear, including masks, impermeable suits and gloves. Judy Siegel and AP contributed to this report