Nationwide drill to include large-scale evacuation of civilians
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Nationwide drill to include large-scale evacuation of civilians

In first, Home Front Command to practice clearing Israelis from front lines, housing them elsewhere; sirens to sound twice on Tuesday

Members of the Knesset Honor Guard, Home Front Command, Firefighters, IDF, and Israel Police, participate in an emergency drill at the Knesset, on May 21, 2015.  (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90 )
Members of the Knesset Honor Guard, Home Front Command, Firefighters, IDF, and Israel Police, participate in an emergency drill at the Knesset, on May 21, 2015. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90 )

Israel’s annual nationwide emergency drill simulating an attack on the country will include a large-scale exercise in evacuating and rehousing civilians caught on the front lines.

It is the first time the country will be practicing for such an eventuality in the framework of a drill and comes in the wake of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge — which exposed a potentially massive threat from Hamas in the form of terror tunnels that infiltrated into Israeli territory — and amid reports of another round of violence with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which claims to have built a sophisticated tunnel network on Israel’s northern border.

According to military assessments, a future conflict with Hezbollah could include a scenario in which the IDF may have to evacuate citizens due to attempts by the terror group to infiltrate and occupy Israeli towns, NRG reported Sunday.

Turning Point 15, which started Sunday, 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.

The evacuation and rehousing exercise will take place Monday.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was set to visit the site of the exercise.

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.

An Orthodox Jewish man hides under a bench as his friend sits and watches in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem as sirens are sounded throughout Israel as part of a IDF Home Front Command drill simulating a bomb attack on May 27, 2013. Sarah Schuman/ Flash90)
An Orthodox Jewish man hides under a bench as his friend sits and watches in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem as sirens are sounded throughout Israel as part of a IDF Home Front Command drill simulating a bomb attack on May 27, 2013. Sarah Schuman/ Flash90)

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.

Israelis sit and pray together inside a street shelter, in anticipation of the Code Red siren alerting of incoming rockets, in the Southern Israeli town of Nitzan, on the fourth day of Operation Protective Edge, July 11, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israelis sit and pray together inside a street shelter, in anticipation of the Code Red siren alerting of incoming rockets, in the Southern Israeli town of Nitzan, on the fourth day of Operation Protective Edge, July 11, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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.

Israeli and American soldiers participate in a joint earthquake drill in Holon on October 21, 2012. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Israeli and American soldiers participate in a joint earthquake drill in Holon on October 21, 2012. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

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.

Ya’alon warned afterward. that Gaza would pay a “heavy price” if attacks continued.

 

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.

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