Israel Conducts Largest Civil Defense Drill in History

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KIRYAT GAT, Israel - Imagine what life would be like if you lived under the threat of a ballistic missile attack. That's the constant threat Israelis face every day and why officials in Israel this week are conducting the largest civil defense drill in their history.

At 11:00 am Tuesday, air raid sirens sounded throughout Israel.

Schoolchildren, people in malls, the elderly and from all walks of life fled to bomb shelters or protected rooms. Officials designed the nationwide air raid drill as part Israel's largest civil defense exercise ever called turning point three. Observers from nearly 70 countries including the U.S. came for the drill.

"Today in particular we were observing the childrens' response to a missile strike and how quickly they could get to their shelter in the event of a national siren sounding," Major Chris Kellerman of the New York Army National Guard told CBN News.

Officials designed the five-day drill to prepare for a variety of scenarios.

"The Israeli police are dealing with different scenarios that we have to deal with that could take place, that have taken place in the past," said Jerusalem Police spokesman Mikey Rosenfeld. Such as threats on the northern border and the southern district dealing with rockets that have landed in the different cities. And giving clear indications and orders to the public what they have to do at the time when these different scenarios take place."

This exercise demonstrated how emergency personnel would rescue people from a building hit by a missile strike. In 2006, during the second Lebanon War, Hezbollah rockets hit dozens of Israeli buildings and homes.

"We have people in reserve and we have people also in the army that that's their job," Rosenfeld explained. "That's what they do. They're a search and rescue unit. When something like this happens, the first ones on sight are the police and fire department. Up to an hour, the military force comes in and they actually have the ability, the tools to work faster and better."

During the second Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets into Israel. More than a million Israelis sought shelter or fled to other parts of the country.

The nationwide exercise demonstrates the unique dangers Israel faces from its neighbors. Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map while aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapon and developing long range missiles. As shown in exclusive satellite photos obtained by CBN News, Syria's missile bases contain hundreds of scud missiles capable of hitting any place in Israel. Since 2006, Hezbollah has also rearmed and now has more rockets than ever before.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli cabinet the exercise is "routine" and "reflects the special way in which we lead our lives" - which upon reflection, he added "is not all that routine."

*Originally Published June 3, 2009 

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