has begun its largest-ever defence drill, testing the response of its
emergency services to a "doomsday scenario" of missile attacks,
bombings and natural disasters.
The five-day national exercise got under way on Sunday, with defence
officials playing down any connection to recent and growing tensions
The drill simulates simultaneous rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and missile attacks from Iran and Syria.
It will test the way rescue services deal with attacks, including
conventional, chemical and biological strikes against large population
The exercise will also simulate a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings.
"We will be exercising the doomsday scenario of simultaneous strikes
against Israel on all fronts and by different means," Shlomo Dror, a
defence ministry spokesman, said last week.
On Tuesday, air-raid sirens will sound across the country and
Israelis must scramble to shelters, in some areas within seconds and
others within no more than three minutes.
The so-called "exercise turning point 3" will also simulate the
conduct of rescue and medical services during earthquakes and epidemics.
There will be simulated cabinet meetings in which ministers will weigh their response to the drill's scenarios.
This is the third consecutive year Israel has conducted defence drills.
The manoeuvres began in the aftermath of the July-August 2006 war
with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which revealed major weaknesses in how
Israel dealt with the rocket attacks on its territory.
"The Second Lebanon War revealed that the homefront was not well
prepared for war and citizens found it hard to adapt to the special
situation," Dror said.
Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's Jerusalem correspondent, said that
while Israel claimed that the drill had "no special significance", it
would likely be seen in the context of "Israel's sabre-rattling towards
Iran and also towards other neighbouring Arab countries".
"It was only a couple of weeks ago that Prime Minister [Binyamin]
Netanyahu was in Washington and he was really pushing the question of
Iran and its perceived nuclear threat really to the top of the agenda
of his talks with President [Barack] Obama," she said.
"So although Israel is saying that this is a defensive drill and its
really practising its ability to defend its civilians against attack
from outside, inevitably it has to be interpreted by Israel's Arab
neighbours - and indeed the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank - as
a warning, a not so subtle warning, of Israel's offensive capacities to
strike should these circumstances arise."
The drill comes just two weeks after the air force wrapped up a
four-day exercise testing its ability to defend against strikes from
Syria and Iran.
Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has not ruled out a military strike on the country in response.
Iran says its nuclear programme is only for energy production.