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Monday, April 7, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Israel conducting largest civil defense exercise in anticipation of missile war

TEL AVIV — Israel has launched its largest civil defense exercise ever in preparation for a possible war with Iran and Syria.

The five-day civil defense drill began on Sunday and is mobilizing the military, police and emergency services. The exercise, conducted by the new National Emergency Authority, was based on a range of scenarios, including a massive missile strike on Israeli cities.

"The exercise was not planned in relation to any current events," a military statement said. "The aim of the exercise is to prepare the different services and institutes operating in the civilian environment for various emergency situations."

But officials said the major scenario was that of missile strikes from Lebanon and Syria on Israeli cities. They said the scenario included missiles with chemical warheads.

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The exercise has been directed by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, a former military deputy chief of staff. The exercise also includes the participation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meant to review enemy attacks and order a response.

The height of the exercise takes place on April 8. At 10 a.m., a siren was scheduled to sound throughout Israel to test the response of schools and civil servants to an emergency.

The exercise was said to have been planned for nearly a year. Officials said the nationwide drill marked a lesson from the war against Hizbullah in mid-2006, when 4,500 rockets rained on Israel.

"Among the scenarios practiced: conventional and non-conventional rockets hitting Israel, chemical-biological incidents, an exercise in HaEmek hospital in Afula and different search and rescue drills," the military said.

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