Israel PM says drill is "routine", minister on peace flotilla

(23 May 2010)
1. Interior Israeli cabinet office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming up stairs to go to cabinet meeting
2. Interior pan cabinet meeting
3. SOUNDBITE (Hebrew) Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister:
“This week we are holding a national home front exercise. This is the fourth year we have conducted this exercise, and it will include using sirens throughout the country, in workplaces and residential areas, schools and day care centres, in hospitals, local authorities, government offices and more. This is a routine exercise that was scheduled long ago. I want to emphasise that this is not a result of any abnormal security development; on the contrary, Israel wants quiet, stability and peace, but it is no secret that we live in a region that is under threat of missiles and rockets. Our best defence against such a threat is first and foremost to nurture the deterrence of the Israel Defence Forces and their ability to overpower (such threats).”
4. Pan across table at cabinet meeting, pull out to wide
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Isaac Herzog, Israeli Cabinet Minister:
“The sail which has commenced in Turkey and is probably continuing towards the region, towards Gaza, is a clear provocation. I can say outright, the only way that such a sail, which will incite and not bring any peaceful recognition in the region, can succeed is only if those who arranged the sail will agree to bring out with them the abducted Israeli soldier who has been denied any human rights, any civil rights in the past three years, Gilad Schalit.”
6. Cutaway of Herzog speaking to media
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to allay fears on Sunday that Israel was preparing for a new offensive, as the country began a major defence drill to test the response of soldiers, emergency crews and civilians to simulated missile barrages, terrorist attacks and chemical strikes.
Speaking at an Israeli cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said the defence drill, was “a routine exercise that was scheduled long ago,” in an apparent attempt to calm fears of Arab neighbours.
“I want to emphasise that this is not a result of any abnormal security development; on the contrary, Israel wants quiet, stability and peace,” Netanyahu added.
Israel embarked on its fourth annual home front drill at a time when Iranian-backed militants are rearming to Israel’s north and south, and Iran
itself is suspected of developing nuclear arms, despite its denials and the lack of concrete evidence.
The five-day civil defence drill is the biggest in Israel’s history and has raised allegations by the country’s enemies that it is preparing for war – a concern Israel has sought to allay.
Israel began carrying out the annual exercise, codenamed Turning Point, after its 2006 war with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon showed that its bomb shelters, air raid sirens and civil defence authorities were found to be unprepared.
Israeli media reported that Hezbollah had heightened its alert status ahead of what it branded as Israel’s “war game,” and they quoted Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri as saying the Israeli exercise defied peacemaking efforts.
Israel has tried to allay regional concerns with assurances through diplomatic channels that the drill is not a cover for a military strike, defence officials said.
Meanwhile, several boats intended to break Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip set sail from Turkey on Sunday.
Gaza has been under an Egyptian and Israeli blockade since 2007 when the militant Hamas organisation took over the territory, and there have been several attempts to break the blockade from the sea.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Isaac Herzog condemned the current attempt calling it “a provocation.”

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