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Israel to have largest ever defense drill

Israel to have largest ever defense drill

Israel is planning its biggest ever civil defense drill next week that will include five days of simulated enemy rocket attacks, Israeli officials said Monday.
Government officials said the exercise, which kicks off May 31 under the name Turning Point III, is not meant to threaten Israel's neighbors.
Israel has mainly focused on Iran when it comes to the issue of possible rocket attacks, and has been gravely concerned over the Persian nation's nuclear program, its development of long-range missiles and repeated statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Israel's destruction.
Israel maintains Iran is building nuclear weapons and rejects Iran's insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Defense officials, meanwhile, said the Turning Point series of exercises was designed to implement lessons learned from Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah, when the Lebanese militia fired nearly 4,000 Katyusha rockets across the border at Israel.
Similar drills were held in 2007 and 2008, but a military statement said the 2009 exercise would be "the largest and most comprehensive yet."
The statement did not give details, but public service announcements broadcast on local TV and radio said air raid sirens will sound across the country, and all Israelis will be told to seek cover in air raid shelters or bombproof rooms in their homes, schools and workplaces.
In last year's drill, the sirens failed to sound in some places, including parts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Israeli officials also sought to allay fears among Arab neighbors, such as Lebanon and Syria, that the exercise could be a cover for a military strike.
The last such attack was in September 2007, when Israeli planes bombed a target in Syria which Damascus said was an unused military installation. But foreign media reports, some quoting unidentified U.S. officials, said the strike hit a nuclear facility made with North Korean help and modeled on the North's main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Turning Point III will be a civil defense drill rather than a military maneuver. He echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday told the Cabinet the exercise would "coordinate among the various civilian and military bodies."
Cabinet ministers would convene as part of the drill.