Israel will be briefly jolted back into last summer’s ordeal with rockets, sirens and army maneuvers beginning Sunday, as the military’s Home Front Command holds a yearly emergency drill simulating three enemies attacking the country at once.
Turning Point 15 will test the preparedness of the country to deal with a massive coordinated rocket attack on population centers across Israel, including damage to essential infrastructure, as well as a cyber attack that brings down the electrical and telephone grids.
It is expected to last five days.
On Tuesday, two rocket sirens will ring out in cities across the country — at 11:05 a.m. and 7:05 p.m. — and people will be asked to rush to bomb shelters in a test of their ability to seek cover in case of rocket attack.
Sirens, however, will not sound near the Gaza Strip after residents, scarred by last summer’s war, asked to be excluded.
The drill, which will simulate simultaneous attacks from the Gaza Strip, Syria and Lebanon, will involve Home Front command officers, as well as police, medics, firefighters, local officials and other bodies.
The air force and navy will also run large exercises over the week.
Among the simulated challenges will be drilling for the closing of Ben-Gurion International Airport due to attacks, evacuating wounded out of the country, large population movements as people seek to find shelter and the creation of tent cities, according to the Walla news site.
The Home Front Command will also test a new system designed to inform citizens of rocket attacks in their area via text messages.
For many, the drill will be a brief flashback to the summer of 2014, as Israel waged a 50-day war with Hamas-led fighters in Gaza that saw thousands of rockets show at Israel, including as far north as Haifa suburbs. The summer war also saw sporadic rocket fire from Lebanon and Syria on the country’s north, and the cancellation of hundreds of flights after a rocket landed near the airport.
The Turning Point drill was first instituted in 2007, following the Second Lebanon War, during which the north of the country was targeted by thousands of Hezbollah rockets, revealing shortcomings in Israel’s official response.
The exercise is meant to be the Home Front Command’s largest annual operation, but in 2014 it was scaled back due to budget cuts.
“We are much more focused, none of our enemies can hit us,” The Home Front Command said in a statement, according to Walla.
Other Turning Point drills have tested the country’s ability to deal with natural disasters and chemical attacks.
While maintaining there is no imminent threat of war, military officials have warned that both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza have rearmed to prepare for possible future conflicts with Israel, including stockpiling thousands of missiles — in Hezbollah’s case hundreds of thousands — including many that can hit Tel Aviv, and rebuilding other infrastructure, including tunnels.
A Gazan missile attack last week near Ashdod caught residents off guard as sirens rang out in the area for the first time since an August ceasefire with Hamas.
The Grad missile, which landed harmlessly near the town of Gan Yavneh, was shot as a result of internal fighting within Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad, according to Israeli and Gazan sources.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned afterward. that Gaza would pay a “heavy price” if attacks continued.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh dismissed the threat, asserting that an escalation of violence would ultimately hurt the Jewish state more than the residents of the Palestinian enclave.
“The enemy’s threats do not scare the Gaza Strip and do not scare the children of Gaza,” Haniyeh said. “Gaza is able to build deterrence. A million people (across the border) panicked over one rocket. I believe they live under terror, rather than (the people of) Gaza.”
On Saturday, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman accused the Israeli government of “burying its head in the sand” after news came out that Hamas is building a new road near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, which it says it will use to attack Israel in the future.