World News

Israel stages 5-day civil defence exercise

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel launched a 5-day civil defence exercise on Sunday that will include simulated chemical and biological attacks on the Jewish state.

Israeli media have reported a rise in tension along Israel’s northern border with Syria in tandem with news of the civil defence drill. Israeli officials said there had been no unusual Syrian military movements.

“I want to make it crystal clear that this is an exercise, and nothing but a routine exercise,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“The Syrians know this and I hope they are assimilating this.”

The exercise, Israel’s biggest such drill in years, will include simulated attacks on cities by rockets carrying conventional payloads and chemical and biological warheads.

Schools and hospitals will participate in the exercise, during which an air raid siren will sound nationwide on Tuesday.

More than 4,000 rockets hit Israel during its 2006 war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla group. The attacks sent more than 1 million Israelis into shelters and prompted Israel to establish a national emergency authority.

Israel was also hit by 39 Scud missiles fired by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.