Israel Preps For Possible Iran Missile Attack
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
In Israel today, air raid sirens sounded across the country. Millions of Israelis headed toward shelters in the country's biggest ever civil defense drill.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was in Tel Aviv for the drill.
Unidentified Woman #1: (Speaking Foreign Language)
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: At precisely 11 o'clock this morning on the 39th floor of the tallest building in Tel Aviv, office workers were told to leave their desks and go to a sealed room until further notice.
(Soundbite of a crowd)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Umvram Sheifra(ph) was among them. He says drills like this are important.
Mr. UMVRAM SHEIFRA: It has prototypes because it will know where they could run away into some safe space, which is the place that I am standing right now. It's important for me to know that I could get some shelter.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: While tests of Israel's emergency services are common here, this is the biggest drill ever undertaken in Israel. Across the country, Israelis were asked to try and make it in as little time as possible to the safe rooms that all new buildings must have.
Even the prime minister took part in the test. Benjamin Netanyahu's office says that the Israeli leader and his aides went to a blast-proof room, and he ordered the Cabinet to convene in a mock emergency session.
Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich is with the Israeli Defense Forces.
Lieutenant Colonel AVITAL LEIBOVICH (Director, Foreign Press Department, Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman's Unit): The point here really is to raise the awareness of the population, so in an hour of need, they will know exactly what to do. And we have to be ready for any type of scenario: whether it's from the air, from the sea, from another country, from within the country, whether the population is the target of the terror activity, whether the military is, whether hospital is. So, we are ready for, of course, a variety of scenarios.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Today's drill is part of a five-day series of exercises that ends on Thursday. Israeli Defense Forces have also been testing their preparation by simulating a number of doomsday scenarios: simultaneous rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, a missile attack from Syria, conventional, chemical and biological strikes against large population centers, a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings.
And for the first time, the army simulated strikes from Iran. There has been increasing tension between Israel and Iran over its nuclear program.
Hanan Zakam(ph) is an accountant in Tel Aviv. He took part in today's drill. He says he and many Israelis are worried about a possible war with Iran.
Mr. HANAN ZAKAM: I think it does send a message that people should know that they - quite honestly, we just want to be left alone. But if they don't want to leave us alone, then we'll certainly look after ourselves as best we can.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says this is the third straight year there have been exercises like this, and he says he expects this training will come in handy soon.
Mr. ZAKAM: The few months after we have had the exercises, we have some sort of action. There's always something happening. Occasionally, we have a few years of quiet and then people want to know what to do with the bomb shelter; to turn it into a synagogue or something. But generally, the bomb shelters are kept as bomb shelters because of the constant threat.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Still, in some parts of Tel Aviv and the country, the drill was met with indifference. As the sirens wailed, pedestrians kept walking to their destinations, ignoring the simulated threat.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Tel Aviv.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.