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Israel concludes largest civil defence drill

Israel in chemical attack on hospital at end of civil defence drill
Israel on Thursday simulated a chemical weapons missile attack on a hospital as it wound up its largest ever civil defense exercise, a military spokesman said. In the final drill of the five-day exercise a hospital in the northern city of Afula was evacuated during the simulation of the chemical weapons strike. The home front manoeuvre was aimed at preparing Israel for possible attacks involving conventional weapons as well as missiles equipped with chemical or bacteriological warheads. It also aimed to prepare the country for possible concerted attacks by Syria and its Lebanese Hezbollah militia allies from the north, and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas from the south. The nationwide exercise raised tensions with Israel's northern neighbours Syria and Lebanon, but Israel insisted the drill was solely designed to test civilian defences. Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said the exercise drew from lessons learned from the 2006 Lebanon war, during which more than 4,000 rockets fired by Hezbollah slammed into northern Israel. An official inquiry harshly criticised Israel's leadership for failing to protect civilians during the 34-day conflict which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) April 10, 2008
Israel wound up its largest ever civil defence exercise on Thursday with a simulation of a chemical weapons attack on a hospital and claimed the five days of drills worked well.

In the final drill a hospital in the northern city of Afula was evacuated during a simulated chemical weapons strike, a military spokesman said.

The home front manoeuvre was aimed at preparing Israel for possible attacks involving conventional weapons as well as missiles equipped with chemical or bacteriological warheads.

The exercise, which began on Sunday "worked very well, everything worked according to what we planned. We thought we would have many more problems," said defence ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror.

The drills also aimed to prepare the country for possible concerted attacks by Syria, its Lebanese Hezbollah militia allies from the north, and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas from the south.

The nationwide exercise raised tensions with Israel's northern neighbours Syria and Lebanon, but Israel insisted the drill was solely designed to test civilian defences.

"The objective of the drill was to check all kinds of situations," Dror said. "We said earlier that if everything went well (during the 2006 Lebanon war) we wouldn't have to do a drill."

The commander of the homefront northern command said Israel was today much better prepared for missile attacks than it was at the 2006 war against the Shiite Hezbollah militia when over 4,000 rockets struck northern Israel.

"We are at a completely different place today. The level of our readiness is much higher and everyone understands what they have to do," Colonel Yossi Luchy told AFP.

An official inquiry harshly criticised Israel's leadership for failing to protect civilians during the 34-day conflict which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

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