The loud blare of sirens returned for the second time Tuesday, sounding at 7:05 p.m. as a massive nationwide home front defense drill continued.
Civilians rushed to bomb shelters when the sirens first rang out at 11.05 a.m. Tuesday, timed for the middle of the workday. The evening siren was intended to test their ability to find cover at home. The exercise is also intended to check that sirens are working properly.
At schools and other official institutions, people were ordered to seek shelter as part of the drill. In the Knesset, security guards and ushers shepherded lawmakers, staffers, visitors and others into bomb shelters, a spokesperson said.
On a busy street in central Jerusalem, however, few people took note of the siren and continued going about their day.
The mock warning was also broadcast on TV and radio as well as on the Home Front Command website.
Text message reminders were sent to mobile phones nationwide half an hour before the drill, in a roll-out of a new rocket warning system.
Sirens did not sound in communities near the Gaza Strip after residents, scarred by last summer’s war, asked to be excluded.
Turning Point 15, the drill’s formal designation, began Sunday, and is intended to test the preparedness of multiple large-scale systems to deal with a massive coordinated rocket attack on population centers throughout Israel, including damage to essential infrastructures, as well as a cyber attack that brings down the electrical and telephone grids.
For many, the drill was a brief flashback to the summer of 2014, when Israel waged a 50-day war with Hamas-led fighters in Gaza that saw thousands of rockets fired at Israel, including as far north as Haifa’s suburbs.
Security officials noted that, should the drill coincide with a real rocket attack, a second siren will sound immediately after the first.
The sirens were part of an annual large-scale civil defense exercise taking place throughout the week and simulating massive rocket attacks from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.
It is the first such exercise since last summer’s Operation Protective Edge — which exposed a potentially massive threat from Hamas in the form of attack tunnels that infiltrated into Israeli territory — and amid reports that another round of violence may be coming from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which claims to have built a sophisticated tunnel network on Israel’s northern border.
The drill includes a large-scale exercise in evacuating and rehousing civilians caught on the front lines.
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.
The air force and navy are also running large exercises this week.
Among the simulated challenges will be 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 to hold displaced residents of rocket-battered areas, according to the Walla news site.
The Turning Point drill was first held in 2007 following the previous year’s 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.
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 rockets — in Hezbollah’s case, hundreds of thousands — some of which can hit Tel Aviv, and rebuilding military infrastructures, 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 fired by an Islamic Jihad faction as part of internal fighting within the Iran-backed group, according to Israeli and Gazan sources.
Defense Minister Ya’alon warned after the rocket fire that Gaza would pay a “heavy price” if attacks continued.