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      Gantz Doesn't Expect War

      IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said he doesn't see Israel involved in a war "anytime soon" as the nation conducts Turning Point 5.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 6/22/2011, 6:45 PM / Last Update: 6/22/2011, 8:41 PM

      IDF

      IDF Chief of the General Benny Gantz participated Wednesday in the Home Front Command's "Turning Point 5" civil defense drill.

      "The exercise is just the beginning," Lt. Gen. Gantz said while observing a drill in Nazareth Ilit. "This is not the first drill and won't be the last and it is not particularly unusual. It is important to continue to train in order to be prepared."

      When asked about the chances of war with Lebanon or Syria in the North, or a major operation vis-a-vis Hamas in the South, Gantz told reporters he didn't expect war.

      "I don't foresee us entering a conflict any time soon. But reality is uncertain, and has the ability to change from one situation to another in a matter of hours. It is important to continue to train properly. Lessons will be learned from this exercise and we will continue it next year," Gantz said.

      Lebanese officials close to the Hizbullah senior leadership said the terror organization might be preparing a strike on Israel to shift international pressure away from its ally and protector Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

      The IDF's new Home Front Commander Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg stressed this week's civil defense drills are not in response to a specific threat and only serve to "prepare civilians for life-threatening scenarios."

      Many observers, however, suggest Israel would not engage in massive nation-wide civil defense drills if there were no tangible threats on the Israel's security horizon.

      "The Middle East is in the throes of a frantic arms race, both in numbers of weapons and unbelievable financial costs", Major General Ido Nehoshtan, commander of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), told IsraelDefense this week.

      Former head of IDF intelligence Amos Yadlin, also speaking about Wednesday's drill, warned that missiles aimed at Israel today do not only target "peripheral" communities such as Sderot and Kiryat Shmona.

      "They are being aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem," Yadlin told Army Radio. "These missiles will not disappear, even if a peace agreement with the Palestinians is signed."

      As a part of Wednesday's civil defense drill, Israel's security cabinet met in an underground bunker in an undisclosed location in the Judean Hills on Wednesday. The bunker is meant for the prime minister and his cabinet in case of a missile attack.

      The Knesset also took part in the exercise on Wednesday, stopping a plenum discussion for ten minutes and evacuating to the building's bomb shelter.

      Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said parliamentarians "see special importance that the Knesset take part in this exercise, not just as citizens of the state but rather because we are threatened and are a target of attack."