JERUSALEM, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli Ministry of Defense pulled employees out of bed and others to emergency stations at its Tel Aviv compound in an overnight pop emergency readiness exercise, officials said.
"In the framework of personnel emergency preparedness, the Defense Ministry held a readiness drill overnight and this morning, " a ministry source told Xinhua Thursday.
"We emphasize that the drill was held as part of a yearly schedule, and prepared ahead of time," the ministry said, although the walled facility, which spreads over several city blocks in a congested neighborhood of downtown Tel Aviv, has been threatened by both Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and is in range of their rockets in any future conflict.
As part of the test, officers confiscated the employees' cellphones, in order to test how well they would continue to function using alternate -- and presumably less flexible, but more secure -- means of communication, Israel Radio said.
The facility sits above the highly-guarded "Pit", buried several stories underground -- the national war room -- from where the army can command and control forces during fighting. The facility, which underwent state-of-the-art renovations last year, also serves as the operations room for the Office of Homefront Defense and related government and civilian agencies.
"Due to the Defense Ministry's central and crucial role in an emergency, the offices and staff will continue to drill their readiness in order to be prepared," the ministry's director- general, Udi Shani, said in a statement sent to Xinhua.
The event comes on the eve of the largest-ever air defense system rehearsal to be held between Israel and its chief ally, the United States.
More than 1,000 American troops will be deployed in the next few weeks alongside their Israeli army counterparts at radar and air defense sites scattered throughout Israel and offshore in a massive drill dubbed "Austere Challenge 12," Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, a regional defense commander for the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), told reporters via telephone from an air base in Germany.