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Last update - 05:20 07/04/2009
IDF planning largest-ever drill to prepare Israel for war
By Anshel Pfeffer
The Home Front Command is preparing to hold the largest exercise ever in Israeli history, scheduled to take place in about two months, in hopes of priming the populace and raising awareness of the possibility of war breaking out.
Should there be a war, Israel would have insufficient emergency and rescue response units, according to a senior Home Front Command officer.
Speaking with Haaretz, Col. Hilik Sofer, who is in charge of the Department for Population at the Home Front Command, said that "in wartime there will be insufficient Magen David Adom, rescue and chemical and biological warfare units. Even if we call up the reserves of the Home Front Command, we will have to rely on the population itself."
"We need to train for a reality in which during war missiles can fall on any part of the country without warning," he said.
The Home Front Command is hoping to convince the population that in a future war the entire country can become a front without warning.
The aim of the nationwide drill, Sofer said, "is to transform the population from a passive to an active one. We want the citizens to understand that war can happen tomorrow morning."
The exercise is scheduled to last an entire week and test a series of scenarios that include missile strikes with conventional and non-conventional warheads, fired by Hezbollah, Syria or Hamas.
Sofer emphasized that in time of war the citizens will be required to mostly rely on themselves. In emergency situations, the policy of the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry is not to carry out mass evacuations of civilians, even in areas that are close to the border with territory controlled by Hezbollah and Hamas.
Officers in the Home Front Command insist that they are not trying to scare anyone beyond a "healthy sense of fear," according to Sofer. In an effort to blunt the severity of the message, the command has prepared an information campaign that is based on questions of children. For the ultra-Orthodox who do not watch television, CDs with information will be distributed, and instructions will also come in Yiddish.
"The entire population will participate in the exercise, not only the schools - everyone," Sofer said. "We will all need to practice for the short warning that we will have to seek shelter from the moment missiles begin falling."
Each area will be given a listing with the warning time available to it, and magnets will be printed with the information that can be put it on fridge doors. Knowing that Tel Aviv residents have two minutes to prepare for impact will, the command hopes, encourage people to prepare a family emergency pack with a flashlight, bottled water, a radio and batteries.