Israel carries out doomsday preparations.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's security cabinet Wednesday met for the first time in a secret nuclear bunker in Jerusalem, officials and press reports said, as part of a massive nationwide defense drill to prepare for a possible missile war with Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.
Officials said it was the first time the security cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had tested the "National Management Center" carved out under the government complex in Jerusalem over the past decade.
As air raid sirens cut through the air at 11 a.m. (0800 GMT), the 14-member security cabinet was safely ensconced inside the underground bunker, Israel's main newspapers and radio stations reported.
"The security cabinet met for a special session in the new national command center in Jerusalem," a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.
Details of the recently built facility were splashed across the tabloids Wednesday, which said the "situation room" was kitted out with cutting-edge anti-missile defenses and communications technology which could withstand both a conventional and a non-conventional attack.
The bunker includes living quarters and command facilities. It can be accessed through the western foothills leading to the coastal city of Tel Aviv.
"This is the proper place from which to run the State of Israel in wartime," Homefront Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio in an interview.
Ministers in the security cabinet were only informed about the meeting Tuesday and were ferried over there without aides or mobile phones, the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported.
Elsewhere, people across the country were holed up inside designated safe areas in their homes, schools or work places where they were asked to remain for 10 minutes. An identical siren test will be staged in the early evening.
The drill is the peak of a major five-day home front defense exercise called 'Turning Point 5,' which began Sunday with the aim of preparing for a possible wave of massive missile attacks on the Jewish state.
Described as "the largest home front defense exercise in the world," the drill includes simulated scenarios of multiple rockets and missile attacks raining down on Israel from four fronts.
Simulated non-conventional attacks have also been built into the exercise, as well as an attack on the Knesset, or parliament building, in Jerusalem.
Israel instituted increasingly sweeping civil defense drills after the 2006 Lebanon war in which Hezbollah fighters fired short-range rockets at its northern towns.
There have been similar salvoes from Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to the south, and Israeli officials say a future war could involve non-conventional missile strikes by Syria and Iran.
Wednesday's exercise envisaged heavy shelling and thousands of dead and wounded on several Israeli fronts. Police and medics practiced mass-casualty incidents and air raid sirens were scheduled to sound twice.
"It is certainly an extreme scenario [although] we assume that our enemies would not dare to operate this way, given our deterrent power," Vilnai said.
Reputed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, Israel bombed an Iraqi reactor in 1981 under what it called a policy of denying foes the means to threaten its destruction.
Israel launched a similar sortie against Syria in 2007 but its veiled threats to tackle Iran's remote and fortified uranium enrichment sites have often been dismissed as bluster given the tactical challenges involved. World powers say they prefer a negotiated resolution with Iran, which denies seeking the bomb.
Copyright 2011, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.
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|Publication:||The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)|
|Date:||Jun 23, 2011|
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