Israelis were by and large bored by the national-wide civil defense exercise designed to prepare them for missile attack. Not so the Iranians, the Syrians and the Hizballah, against whose missiles the drill was staged. Their heads swiveled back and forth from Sunday April 6 to Thursday, April 10, picking up every nuance and feature of “Operation Turning Point-2.”
Iran in fact rushed its most advanced electronic tracking devices to the Syrian-Israeli border so as not to miss a single move.
What most perplexed these avid cross-border watchers was the title of the exercise: What turning point did the Israel have in mind?
The scenarios practiced in the Israeli exercise were pretty serious. They simulated military attacks mounted simultaneously from three of its borders, Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas at the head of Palestinian terrorist groups from the Gaza Strip. They braced for a purported first-strike barrage of 600 surface missiles, some tipped with chemical warheads.
If it came true, this blitz, the largest military missile assault on a civilian population in military history, would leave 300 Israelis dead.
The exercise posed Jerusalem as targeted by missiles. The destruction was staged to be savage enough to force on the Israeli government an immediate decision to evacuate hundreds of thousands of civilians from the cities to tent camps in uninhabited regions mainly along the Mediterranean coast.
Also practiced in the exercise were missile hits against strategic installations like electric stations and oil refineries. Terrorist landings by sea on the Tel Aviv coast were postulated as leading to seizures of schools and buses.
The Iranian and Syrian generals eying the exercise sought to draw lessons about Israeli military thinking and modes of operation, the objective of the exercise and why it was dubbed Turning Point-2.
Syria copycats Israel’s civil defense exercise – and fails
They suddenly perceived the exercise from their own perspective; if Israeli towns and homeland were vulnerable to missile attack, the urban populations of Iran and Syria were even more so. Israel was seen to have established a civil defense infrastructure with a separate command for homeland affairs, controlling emergency brigades, medical services, firefighters, recovery units for trapped casualties, semi-military regional centers for keep the home front supplied with food, water, health services and facilities for the evacuation of casualties. The system is known by its Hebrew acronym, PESACH.
While many of these services are far from being in A-1 working order, no such system at all exists in any Arab country or Iran for dealing with the consequences of an air or a missile attack on their main cities or outlying communities.
The Iranian and Syrian war chiefs became shockingly aware of the vulnerabilities of the civilian populations on both sides of the borders.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources discovered that, about halfway through Turning Point-2, Iranian and Syrian military chiefs went into a tense huddle to start planning their own civil defense exercises. It seems that they drew the lessons of the Israeli exercise before Israel’s war planners had a chance to study its results.
Tuesday, April 8, Syrian president Bashar Assad summoned the Syrian defense minister Gen. Hassan Turkemani and directed him to organize a homeland defense exercise to take place in July.
Thursday, April 10, our military sources reveal that the Syrian ruler suddenly decided not to wait that long. There and then, the Syrian army and emergency services were catapulted into a nationwide homeland defense exercise simulating an Israeli missile attack on Syria’s main cities.
It took three hours for the entire system to collapse.
The decision in Damascus and Tehran not to let Israel’s military have the last word, even on civil defense, has further raised the already high tensions prevailing between both those powers and Israel.