Israeli drill begins, Hezbollah mobilises along border 23MAy10 May 24, 2010

Ma’an News Agencies -  23 May 2010

Israel began its yearly home-front security drill on Sunday, as Hezbollah began mobilizing along the Israel-Lebanon border in response to the exercise, various news agencies reported.

The drill, named Turn Point 4, is expected to last five days across Israel, the Israeli daily Haaretz wrote. The Israeli army sent out communiques addressing the public to prepare for the drill over the past week, which will involve the army’s various command centres, emergency services and other governmental bodies.

The focus of this year’s drill will be a massive rocket attack against Israel.

A statement issued by the Israeli army said “this year the exercise will focus on the preparedness of the local authorities during emergencies. The exercise will replicate emergency scenarios in more than 30 local authorities throughout Israel in cooperation with the Home-Front Command. ”

On Wednesday, civilians will be included in the drill, after a siren is sounded at 11am throughout Israel, whereby civilians have to take shelter or cover for a period of ten minutes. During the exercise, the Israel’s Home Front Command will distribute gas masks in eight cities in preparation for a future scenario requiring rapid distribution.

Israelis were also told expect a text message in certain areas reading “Have a nice day,” signed by the Israeli army’s Home Front Command “The exercise will also examine warning systems on cellular phones,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Lebanese media reported that the armed Shiite group Hezbollah began mobilizing thousands of fighters in southern Lebanon in response to Israel’s five-day drill.

“The Hezbollah fighters have [been instructed] to be completely ready to confront Israeli maneuvers on Sunday,” Hezbollah deputy head Nabil Qaouq told Agence France-Presse.

“Thousands of our fighters will not go to the polls (municipal elections scheduled for this Sunday) and will be prepared from today” for any eventuality, he added.

“In the event of any new attack on Lebanon, the Israelis will not find anywhere in Palestine to hide,” he said.

There was no official response from the Lebanese government on this issue, the Lebanese online news site Ya Libnan wrote.

Last month, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria of providing Scud missiles to Hezbollah, charges that Damascus has denied.

The US administration approved on Thursday a plan to help Israel deploy an anti-missile system known as Iron Dome.

Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israel has trained in response to perceived failures during the attack.

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