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Israeli military drill worries Lebanon, Syria

Latest update : 2008-04-06

Amid Lebanese warnings that Israeli military exercises could exacerbate tensions along the volatile border, Israel sought to reassure Beirut and Damascus that it does not "want any degradation" on its northern border.

Israel sought to reassure Syria and Lebanon on Sunday that it did not want a major missile attack drill to worsen tensions along its heavily guarded northern border.
   
"The northern front is particularly volatile, but we don't want any degradation and the other side knows it and we also think that the other side doesn't want a degradation," Defence Minister Ehud Barak told public radio.
   
He added, however, that Israel was "ready to confront any development."
   
A five-day nationwide exercise simulating air and missile attacks on cities, including by non-conventional weapons, were set to begin Sunday, the army said.
   
Emergency sirens will be sounded across the country and schoolchildren will practice entering shelters and protected spaces in the event of chemical and biological weapons attacks on Israel.
   
The emergency services will also for the first time broadcast on TV tutorial videos explaining how to act during an attack.
   
"In the wars today preparing the home front is an essential element for victory," Barak said, adding that the drills were aimed at "learning lessons" from the Second Lebanon War against the Hezbollah militia in 2006.
   
An official investigation of the war harshly criticised Israel's military and political leadership for failing to protect civilians from the more than 4,000 rockets fired on northern Israel during the 34-day conflict.
   
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Friday warned that Israel could exploit the operation to increase tensions along the heavily guarded border between the two countries.
   
But Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told army radio that "an exercise aimed at protecting schoolchildren cannot be considered a threat to Syria or Hezbollah."
 

Date created : 2008-04-06

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