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Israel holds nationwide war game

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Israel launched its biggest-ever emergency drill, with an emphasis on civilian wartime defenses.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began the nationwide exercise, dubbed “Turning Point 2,” at Sunday’s Cabinet session by issuing a dummy declaration that Israel was “at war.”

During the five-day drill, government bodies, public services and the armed forces will be practicing intensively for emergency situations such as mass-casualty attacks or natural disasters.

On Tuesday, air raid sirens will sound throughout Israel, with the exception of Sderot and other southern towns that must be on real alert for Palestinian rocket attacks from the nearby Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem officials were at pains to point out that Turning Point 2 was a long time in the planning and has nothing to do with current tensions between Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

“I would like to make clear that this is an exercise and nothing but an exercise,” Olmert said in broadcast remarks. “The State of Israel seeks no confrontation or violence in the north.”

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