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Israel to Hold Home Front Drill Amid Rise in Iran Tensions

Israel’s Home Front Command this week will test its nationwide text-message system to alert the public of danger, the military said, amid reports that the country is considering a strike against Iran.

The test would involve sending text-message warnings to Israelis on their mobile phones, according to an e-mail sent by the army.

“The country’s home front defense is significantly improved,” Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in comments sent by text message from his office. “But we can’t say there are no problems because there always are.”

Iranian officials have said that any attack against the country’s nuclear program that the Israelis want to stop would prompt retaliation. Iran has an arsenal of medium-range missiles and close ties with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, which have fired rockets against Israel.

Israel Ziv, a major general in the reserves and former head of the military’s operations directorate, said on Army Radio that Hezbollah and Hamas would probably participate in any Iranian retaliation and that Syria, involved in a civil conflict, may also join in.

Window Closing?

Channel Two news said Aug. 10 that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak see the window for striking Iran in an effort to halt its nuclear program closing within months. The leaders are leaning toward a strike on Iran before U.S. elections in November despite opposition to such a move by the security establishment, the Haaretz daily reported Aug. 10.

“Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said today.

Forty percent Israelis surveyed think that Iran’s nuclear program won’t be stopped without a strike and 56 percent polled said they think the home front isn’t ready to deal with Iranian retaliation, according to a survey published in Ma’ariv on Aug. 10. The poll surveyed 501 Israeli adults and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

U.S. officials, concerned that a conflict could destabilize the region and send oil prices soaring, had been urging caution and pressing for increased sanctions on Iran. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Aug. 10 that the U.S. believes “there continues to be the time and space” to pursue diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran.

The daily Haaretz said today that Iran was making significant progress toward developing the components for assembling a nuclear weapon, citing an unidentified official.

While Israel can’t allow Iran to become a nuclear power, it should use the time now to press for tougher sanctions, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Army Radio.

Stronger restrictions “could be a determining factor in bringing down the Iranian regime and perhaps bring it to abandon the nuclear program,” he said.

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