BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Israel’s defense drills put Hezbollah on alert: source

SIDON, Lebanon: Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon were on high alert Monday as Israel continued its week-long defense drills, a security source told The Daily Star.

“All Hezbollah fighters, even those that were on holiday, have been summoned in southern Lebanon,” the source said, while Hezbollah refused to comment on the report.

Israel commenced a large-scale defense exercise Sunday, testing the readiness of various national institutions in response to a major rocket attack on Israel, possibly emanating simultaneously from multiple sources inside Lebanon, Gaza, Iran and Syria.

The operation, named “Turning Point 5” is an annual drill, conducted yearly after the 34-day 2006 war with Lebanon in which some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died.

Despite the rise in tension, however, U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon command insist the security situation has remained calm and that there have been no new developments Monday.

“Nothing has changed and the situation is the same,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star.

UNIFIL are not said to have raised alertness levels in light of the military drills and have described the Israeli measures, scheduled to last until June 26, as “routine.”

According to Israeli media, the first day of the maneuver saw unnamed regional council members receiving text message alerts to test the state of the telecommunication system and also witnessed military drills in a Haifa naval training base.

The Israeli army estimates up to 800 rockets could be fired into northern and central Israel daily in the case of a war on multiple fronts, with “Turning Point 5” supposed to simulate the potential evacuation of 300,000 civilians.

“The threat scenario presented by the [Israeli Army] is grave,” Israeli Brig. Gen. Meir Elran, who heads the program for civilian front studies at the Institute for National Security Studies, said in an opinion article published in Israeli media Monday.

In the presented scenario Israel calculates “casualties and extensive damage to essential installations, for example the Israel Electric Corporation, thanks partly to new [enemy] technologies which allow for pinpoint-precise warheads and computer network attacks,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 21, 2011, on page 2.

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