Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
JERUSALEM – Sirens wailed across Israel on Monday, as the country’s Home Front Command began testing a new nationwide alert system as a measure to warn the citizenry of what to do in the event of an impending missile attack. Conventional methods, as well as smartphone and social media applications, were used in the test.
The weeklong Home Front Command drill, dubbed Eitan 1, coincided with ominous warnings issued by high-ranking IDF officers and Israeli politicians that the Syrian civil war is entering a dangerous phase, as the violence is beginning to spill over the borders of several countries – including Israel.
Last week, IDF Home Front Command head Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg acknowledged that if Israel were dragged into a regional war involving Syria, Lebanon, and perhaps Iran, Israel could be hit with long-range missiles carrying large warheads capable of destroying an entire city block. A medium-range Fajr-5 rocket fired at Rishon LeZion from Gaza last year caused severe damage to a relatively new apartment building.
Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan has said that despite the growing missile threats, many parts of the country are still not prepared to deal with major attacks against the civilian population. The Home Front Command has warned that the current Arrow, Iron Dome and Patriot anti-missile batteries would be insufficient to thwart a massive barrage of medium- and long-range missiles, which could hit vital roads, water and power facilities. Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that several municipalities had failed to open locked shelters ahead of the drill, while the IDF Home Front Command, the Israeli police and Magen David Adom complained of communication glitches.
The Jewish Press has learned that many cities across the country have recently instructed their municipal employees to assume emergency positions in local schools and gymnasiums, where they would distribute food, water, and other necessities in the aftermath of a devastating missile attack. According to several Israeli news reports, cyber warfare terrorists in Syria, Iran and other enemy nations are trying to hack into Israel’s water and electrical systems in order to wreak havoc on the home front. One Israeli cyber security expert said that a Syrian cyber warfare unit unsuccessfully targeted Haifa’s water system several weeks ago.
The prospect of a regional war has increased dramatically since Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated that he is committing nearly 10,000 militiamen, under the tutelage of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to help prop up the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Shiite Hizbullah fighters are on the front lines in the fight against an array of Sunni anti-Assad rebels, which also include al Qaeda jihadists. Nasrallah has threatened to plunge the entire region into chaos if Assad is deposed.
“If Syria falls, so will Palestine, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. We will enter a very dark phase,” he told a large throng of supporters in Beirut on Sunday. Hours after his speech, anti-Assad rebels fired several missiles at Nasrallah’s stronghold in Beirut. Pitched street battles between Sunni Lebanese and Shiite Hizbullah militias are breaking out across the country, threatening to plunge Lebanon into its own civil war.
IDF sources told Israel’s Channel 2 News and Channel 10 News that Iran has given the green light to Hizbullah and Syrian government forces to try to draw Israel into the conflict by attacking civilian sites in the Golan Heights. But the Israeli News 10 Arab affairs correspondent, Zvi Yehezkeli, reported that Hizbullah is incapable of fighting anti-Assad rebels in both Syria and Lebanon while at the same time opening a hostile front against Israel. “Nasrallah is becoming one of the most hated figures in the Arab world, and this time he might have endangered his own existence,” said Yehezkeli.
Buttressing Yehezkeli’s claims is Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa. Calling Nasrallah a “terrorist,” he implored the Arab world to “stop Nasrallah, as saving Lebanon from him is a religious and national duty.” Bahrain, a Sunni Arab-ruled island nation in the Persian Gulf, has experienced several violent civilian uprisings over the past two years via its mostly Shiite population. Its rulers have accused Hizbullah and Iran of fomenting the violence.
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