Daily Israel Report

Israel Prepares for War: 5-Day 'Turning Point 3' Exercise Begins

The largest emergency drill ever to take place in Israel, starting Sunday, simulates a war with Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria.
By Yehudah Lev Kay
First Publish: 5/31/2009, 10:43 AM

Israel News Photo: (IDF)

The largest emergency drill ever to take place in Israel, dubbed ‘Turning Point 3’, began Sunday morning after months of planning.

Representatives from 70 nations are participating as observers in the drill, which simulates a war with Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria that also leads Arabs within Israel to riot and commit terrorist attacks.

Turning Point 3 involves the IDF, police, emergency medical services, government offices, and all of the nation’s civilians. Some Arab countries, nervously watching Israel prepare for the exercise, have claimed that the exercise is just a front for an Israeli attack.

The drill is intended to prepare the Jewish State for the worst possible scenario, beginning with a war that ignites in Gaza after a three-month escalation, bringing Israeli civilians in the Negev under rocket bombardment. The fighting then spreads to Israel’s northern border, where Hizbullah opens a second front and initiates rocket fire reaching all parts of the country.

The war next engulfs Syria, and at the same time authorities must deal with uprisings among the local Arab population, including terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. At the same time, emergency services will train for other disasters such as an earthquake, an epidemic outbreak, or a hazardous materials spill.

As far as the general population is concerned, Turning Point 3 reaches its peak on Tuesday, when a nationwide siren sounds at 11:00 a.m., sending civilians to the nearest bomb shelter. The Home Front Command recently released a map showing that every Israeli citizen has come under rocket threat from either Hamas or Hizbullah, and explaining how much time a person has to reach a shelter based on his location.

Five Days of Intensive Simulations
The different components of Turning Point 3 are spread out over five days this week.

On Sunday, the drill began during the weekly cabinet meeting as government ministers were walked through the steps the state would take in a time of war. The simulation is expected to continue throughout the cabinet meeting. 

Monday sees the exercise expand to defense and emergency services, as the IDF, police, National Emergency Authority, and Home Front Command begin simulations. All government offices open emergency centers, while the Emergency Economic Command meets to handle the economic home front during war time.

On Tuesday, local governing councils are presented with emergency scenarios and respond accordingly. At 11:00 a.m., the nationwide siren is activated, sending civilians to bomb shelters in offices, schools and shopping centers. Citizens in apartment buildings and private homes are strongly urged to practice seeking the safety of bomb shelters and safe rooms at this time as well.

Wednesday sees drills at the National Security Cabinet and tests of the national information and data management system. Emergency forces in Kiryat Gat practice evacuating wounded from a collapsed building prepared specially for the drill.

On Thursday, IDF units drill field exercises while the Home Front Command continues the simulation at its headquarters. The police practice the evacuation of a skyscraper as Turning Point 3 comes to a close.

Seventy Nations Look On, Arabs Wary
Representatives of 70 different countries, including the U.S., Turkey, Japan, France, Germany, Uruguay, and Hungary are set to observe the drill. They will also share their impressions on the success of ‘Turning Point 3’ with Israeli authorities.

Several Arab states, however, have expressed concern with the Israeli exercise; Hizbullah terrorists have claimed that it is a front designed to conceal a planned Israeli attack .

Defense Minister Ehud Barak countered the claims last week, saying that Turning Point 3 “is a standard Home Front Command drill which was planned will in advance.” Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai added, however, that the drill represents a very real scenario that could occur in wartime.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said, “Turning Point 3 is a standard exercise which has taken place each year for the past three years. The purpose of the drill is to improve Israel’s readiness and cooperation among forces for an emergency situation. The exercise will reveal areas that need improvement and point towards proper solutions.”