By Mark Lavie, Associated Press
JERUSALEM — Sirens sounded across Israel Wednesday morning as part of a massive air raid drill aimed at practicing the civilian response to large-scale rocket attacks.
Emergency crews and soldiers have been practicing all week how to deal with multiple casualties from rocket explosions. Some Israelis rushed to air raid shelters in Wednesday’s public part of the four-day drill, but others ignored the wailing sirens.
In the central Israeli city of Rehovot, teachers marched a line of small children toward a shelter in a community center, but next door, the neighborhood bomb shelter remained locked, and none of the residents tried to follow government instructions to run for the bombproof facilities.
Residents of nearby cities told reporters they already experienced running for cover during real rocket attacks, so they did not feel the need to practice.
Rockets pummeled large parts of Israel during the 2006 summer war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and last year’s winter war with Gaza militants.
Hezbollah rockets hit the northern third of Israel, causing considerable damage in the port city of Haifa and elsewhere.
Rockets fired by Gaza militants exploded in southern and central Israel, hitting cities including Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast and Beersheba in the Negev desert.
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest cities, were not hit in either war.
Gaza militants and Hezbollah, along with Syria, still have large numbers of rockets. Another threat comes from Iran, which has missiles that can hit Israel and has a nuclear program that Israel charges is designed to produce nuclear weapons. Iran insists the program is peaceful.
Israeli leaders have said the large-scale drill is not linked to specific threats. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the operation was planned long ago and is defensive in nature, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave similar assurances on Tuesday.
Lebanon and Syria issued statements at the beginning of the exercise warning Israel not to attack. On Wednesday, the Lebanese army conducted maneuvers of its own near the Israeli border, Lebanese security officials said. They said reinforcements were sent to the border area to raise the level of alert and monitor the Israeli drill. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.
The officials said Lebanese anti-aircraft gunners also fired at Israeli warplanes flying over the town of Shebaa in south Lebanon Wednesday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.
The Israeli military refused to comment.