Israel launches massive defense drill

Sunday, April 06, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

Israel on Sunday launched a five-day nationwide defense drill, the largest the country has ever conducted, to test its readiness to deal with mounting regional threats.

Dubbed "Turning Point 2," the drill will consist of various simulations, including natural disasters, large-scale terror attacks, non-conventional missile strikes on Israeli population centers and full-scale ground war.

Speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the drill was part of his government's efforts to implement lessons learned from the disastrous 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Defense officials have warned for months that another confrontation with Lebanon's Hizballah, or possibly with the group's Syrian sponsors, could be on the horizon. Israel also remains wary of the growing Iranian nuclear threat, as well as Al Qaeda's stated intention to start carrying out attacks inside the Jewish state.

Last week, Damascus used Israel's preparations for the drill to claim that Jerusalem was planning to attack either Hizballah or Syria. Olmert went to pains at Sunday's cabinet meeting to stress that the mobilization of military and rescue forces is nothing more than a routine drill on a slightly larger-than-normal scale, and that the Syrians are perfectly aware of this.

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