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From Israel,lessons on fighting terror

While there’s a lot that went wrong in India’s response to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai,a study in sharp contrast is Israel.

Written by Ritu Sarin
Tel Aviv | July 21, 2009 3:12:53 am

While there’s a lot that went wrong in India’s response to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai,a study in sharp contrast is Israel. In that country,elaborate mock drills,simulation of emergency Cabinet meetings and blueprints for setting up countrywide media centres within hours of a terror strike are “routine”.

The success of last month’s five-day civil defence drill — called Turning Point 3 — underlined various aspects of preparedness that Israel has perfected,but Major Avital Leibowizt,head of the International Media unit of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF),told The Indian Express more elements were being added to their counter-terror response machine. Every day.

The country already has mega responses firmly in place. Besides the annual drills involving soldiers,emergency crews and civilians — Turning Point 3 was the country’s third — an artificial Arab city has been created in an Army base in the Negev Desert with as many as 500 buildings where mock exercises are held throughout the year.

“This is the place where Army regulars and Air Force officers work with reserves who act as civilians living in crowded streets and participate in mock exercises. Everything is simulated,including the response of media,paramedics and firemen,” said Major Leibowizt.

Then,there are elaborate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that are routinely tested by members of the municipality who work along with the defence forces,for example,in schools and other educational institutions. Mock drills in schools where soldiers rush children,amid blaring sirens,to safe rooms or bomb shelters are,in fact,a common sight.

The IDF spokesperson enumerated the elaborate measures taken for media coverage. For instance,he said,a dozen places like a school,hotel or a conference can be converted into a fully-functional media centre within 24 hours during a terror strike or a war-like situation.

The IDF’s media policy is now being expanded to also include interaction with the “non-traditional” media like the social networks and bloggers. And given the size of Israel’s migrant population,there are also plans to make announcements to the public and media in five languages in the event of an emergency.

Not surprising then that following the Mumbai attacks,the Maharashtra Government was the first off the block to respond to Tel Aviv’s offer for assistance to export its expertise on counter-terror responses and homeland security. Officials said they expected to host delegations from several other state governments as well.

Following a five-day trip to Israel to get a hands-on experience of counter-terrorism procedures put in place by Tel Aviv,Mumbai Police Commissioner D Shivanandan said a delegation that visited Israel would shortly be finalising a “common report” with a list of recommendations to the state Home Ministry for simulation of the Israeli experience.

“We will be proposing a host of common training programmes and begin with purchase of an array of arms,ammunition and technology,including equipment for bomb disposal squads,from Israel. We will strongly recommend replication of certain Israeli solutions in India,” the Police Commissioner told The Indian Express.

“What impressed me most,” he added,“were their detailed SOPs. The possible use of such systems will very much be part of our post-visit follow-up actions.”

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