Israeli mayors, emergency and security services officials, professors and journalists gathered on Sunday to discuss the state’s level of preparedness in the event of a major emergency, such as war or a devastating earthquake.
But the atmosphere was bleak, with many participants repeating that Israel was not prepared to deal with a large-scale crisis.
“We must be ready to say we are not ready,” Haifa Mayor Einat Kalish Rotem told a conference in Modi’in.
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“In the event of a major earthquake, I think half of the medical staff will not attend. People will look for their loved ones. There are a lot of things we need to work on,” said Professor Chase Levy, director of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. The coastal city in southern Israel has been hit by hundreds Rocket attacks during the fighting with armed movements stationed in the Gaza Strip last May, more than any other city.
The conflict last year was also marked by waves of sectarian violence in several Arab towns and the so-called “mixed” towns, which include large numbers of Arabs and Jews.
“We are not ready to provide a comprehensive response in the event of the upcoming ‘Guardian of the Walls’ operation,” Deputy Commissioner Sigal Bar-Zvi, head of the Israel Police’s Operations Division, said, using the official name of the 11-day war.
“We will not be able to respond to an event of this magnitude with the resources we currently have. Operation Guardian of the Walls was a watershed moment, and we are not in a position to provide a real answer,” she added.
Opening the conference, the commander of the army’s home front, Uri Gordin, warned Israeli citizens to prepare for the next war.
The reality of Israel has changed dramatically over the past three years. On the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic spread into our lives in 2020, and on the other hand, during the pandemic, Hamas fired more than 4,400 rockets at Israeli citizens.
He added, “The bad news is that in the next war – the third Lebanon war or the first northern war, whatever you want to call it – tens of thousands of missiles will be fired at Israeli homes.” “Thousands of rockets and missiles every day, on Israeli cities, all over the country and on display.”
But the head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate said the situation would be much worse for Lebanese citizens.
“In the scenario of the war on the northern arena, it would be better to be in Tel Aviv than in Beirut,” said Maj. Gen. Oded Pasiuk.
“It is true that during the war things will happen that will make the situation difficult for the Home Front Command, but the flexibility of the Home Front Command is very important for the IDF to implement what it is preparing for, and it is difficult to imagine what will happen in Lebanon.
In conclusion, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, Aviv Kohavi, issued a stern warning to the Lebanese citizens.
“On the one hand, we will give them a frank warning and let them go, but on the other hand we will hit them with tremendous force,” he said.
“So far, I inform the Lebanese citizens that I am not only recommending you to leave as soon as the war begins, but to leave as soon as the tensions begin, before the first shot, because our strength and the attacks will be like you’ve never seen them before.”
Kohavi’s comments came after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel on Thursday over plans to extract gas from a disputed offshore reserve. He hinted that Hezbollah might oppose the drilling by force if necessary.
Israel said last week it was “ready to defend” the facility. The Israeli army has also deployed naval forces to the area, including the Iron Dome anti-missile battery on board, according to public broadcaster Kan.
Earlier this month, the Israeli army held a major military exercise in Cyprus, simulating a ground offensive in the heart of Lebanon in a possible war against the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has long been the largest military threat to the IDF, with an estimated arsenal of 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.
The main objective of the exercises was to simulate the cessation of Hezbollah’s rocket fire into Israel in a major escalation, through a ground offensive in Lebanon. According to military officials, the only way to achieve such a goal is to be “remarkably present” in the areas from which the attack is launched, moving the enemy away from the border.
A week ago, the Home Front Command simulated a multi-day outbreak of violence with Hezbollah, culminating in an intense rocket fire that severely damaged 80 sites and killed nearly 300 people.