Sunday, May 11, 2014

Israeli Bio-Defence: A Model for Prevention and Response

"In 1970, Anwar al Sadat reportedly stated that 'Egypt has biological weapons stored in refrigerators and could use them against Israel's crowded populations.(90) This statement was understood as a warning against a nuclear strike by Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.(91) Allegations have described Egypt conducting research on anthrax, plague, tularemia, cholera, botulinum toxin, mycotoxins, smallpox, influenza, Japanese B encephalitis, Eastern Equine encephalitis, Rift Valley Fever, for military purposes. (60,91) Egypt has denied these claims and there is no proof of biological warfare research in Egypt.(92)" See: Joseph H. McIsaac III, Hospital Preparation for Bioterror: A Medical and Biomedical Systems Approach

Israel, nestled in the Middle East, is surrounded by 22 hostile states, however, it is Syria and Lebanon (due to Hezbollah supported by Iran and Syria), which pose an existential threat to the tiny nation. Long before the emergence of Al Qaeda and the use of anthrax in the US postal attack, known as 'Amerithrax', Israel was quietly preparing to counter weapons of mass destruction and unconventional terrorist threats. Notably, Israel is on the front lines of the WOT every moment of every day and this is not a new or newly declared war for them. Sadly, it is the reality of maintaining the security and survival of the State of Israel. Although a long list of attacks, war and terrorism, both state sponsored and terrorist motivated, forms the history of the modern state of Israel from the Yom Kippur War to the present day, it is Saddam Hussein's use of Scud missiles which the West, with perhaps a shorter term memory, recalls more easily. World attention centered on Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and in particular his chemical and biological weapon arsenals prior to Dessert Storm. Israel, once again was in the sights of an aggressive neighbor armed with WMD and routinely espousing statements like 'death to Israel.'   It is no wonder that Israel is bar none the best prepared nation in the world to meet the unconventional weapon threat.
"Information from before the Gulf War generated serious concern among Coalition forces about Iraq's possible use of Scuds armed with chemical or biological warheads. Pre-war intelligence judged that Iraq might have chemical warheads for Scuds.[17] One source said that despite very unstable flight characteristics, Iraq successfully completed development of a Scud with a chemical warhead in 1990, and that Iraq had stockpiled 150 Scuds with chemical warheads.[18] The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) judged that these warheads would most likely contain persistent chemical warfare agents such as VX (nerve agent) or mustard (blister agent).[19]According to an intelligence source, the Al Hussein missile could carry either chemical warfare (CW) or biological warfare (BW) warheads. Iraq could mount a biological agent warhead on the Al Abbas version of the Scud. This source reported Iraq planned to use cholera for biological warfare against targets in the Gulf region (but weaponization of cholera could not be verified later).[21]Intelligence agencies may have put less emphasis on Scuds as a biological threat, but they considered that threat real. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessed:
We have no information to confirm that Iraq has developed or manufactured BW warheads for its ballistic missiles. However, Iraq has the ability to weaponize its BW agents'including anthrax spores'and we believe it is well within Iraq's technical capabilities to produce BW warheads for its Scud missiles'. It probably would take only one BW warhead to neutralize any one given target. Our analysis indicates that the Al Husayn [alternate spelling], carrying about 100 kilograms (KG) of dried anthrax spores, would theoretically produce a maximum area of lethal contamination of 1,600 square kilometers [579 square miles]. That would be a dispersion area about 90 KM long and 15 KM wide at the widest point [56 by 9 miles]. Other of Iraq's BW agents would be equally potent: Botulinus toxin would produce a maximum lethal area of contamination of about 21 square kilometers [8 square miles] and anthrax spores in solution would produce an area of about 110 square kilometers [42 square miles].' Iraq only needs a few BW-tipped missiles in its stockpile to cause significant casualties.(22)" See: 

"In 1995, Iraq admitted to UNSCOM inspectors that it had produced the biological warfare agents anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin.[41] Inspectors found that Iraq had launched a crash program in December 1990 to field weapons with BW agents to include artillery shells and some Al Hussein Scuds. Iraq claimed they never used such weapons because the United States sent them a message implying that if Iraq used chemical or biological weapons, the United States would counterattack with nuclear weapons. According to Iraq, Israeli officials sent a similar message [42]" 

When Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at Israel, there was serious concern these may have been mounted with CW or BW warheads. Iraq fired 42 Scuds that reached Israel or nearby areas of Jordan beginning on January 18, 1991." 
See: . 

Israel's history with hostile states and unconventional warfare threats is extensive and as one would expect they are well prepared to counter such threats. While the international community, outside the IC, has generally viewed state BWprograms with great skepticism, Israel, didn't have the luxury of engaging in highly theoretical debates on political correctness of their neighbors, nor could they afford to be so naive. In an article by Yaakov Lappin, Background: Looking at Israel's Bio-defence Program, he notes: "Biological warfare is considered by Israeli security officials to be one of the most dangerous forms of unconventional attacks, and an Israeli bio-defence program has taken shape in recent decades with the growing threat of bio-terrorism backed by rogue regimes. "I will say that Israel has the best solution to this threat in the world," Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council."I can say with certainty that Israel has prepared a series of steps designed to deal with biological warfare." Eiland said Israel had invested heavily in the field of bio-terrorism but added that the threat remained 'huge.' A bio-weapon can be dispersed in a hall full of people and the consequences would only be felt a week later," he warned. "This is unlike a chemical attack, which would be felt immediately." While Israel has endured countless threats of annihilation from states as well as terrorist organizations (Hassan Nasrallah/Hezbollah) the 2012 public announcement that Syria possessed a biological weapon program, only further substantiated the bases for Israeli's robust bio-defence architectures.  

In July 2012, when Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced on Syrian state t.v. that Syria essentially possessed a biological warfare program, Israeli concerns were validated and who better than the source to provide such validation. Although this is not the first time Syria has announced it has a biological warfare program, it is the first time the press took note and only because concerns were raised with regard to Assad's well known chemical weapon program and stockpiles. 

Israel is used to living in a rough neighborhood and has comprehensive plans for countering a range of weapons of mass destruction threats. In addition to ample medical countermeasures, Israel routinely runs civil defence exercises specifically to prepare for deliberate disease epidemics resulting from biological warfare and terrorism related to Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah). For example in 2011, the Ministry of Defence ran a two day exercise called 'Orange Flame 6.' This exercise is one of many exercises and drills Israel runs to prepare for the threat of unconventional warfare and terrorism. Orange Flame 6 posited that an outbreak from a biological weapon attack had occurred and was intended to spread an unspecified transmissible disease across four cities in northern Israel.
“The aim of the exercise is to improve and increase the capabilities of the state of Israel to handle an unconventional terror attack,” Deputy Defense Minister Zev Snir said. “It is important that Israeli citizens know that there are people in the defense establishment, as well as the other relevant authorities, whose permanent job it is to prepare the state of Israel
to handle these types of threats.”Officials said centers would be established in the cities of Afula, Nazareth, Upper Nazareth and Tiberias to treat those suspected of infection to biological weapons agents. Each center would be designed to treat about 5,000 people per day while hospital would be trained to treat those with actual symptoms.Iran and Syria have been developing biological and chemical weapons over the last decade. Officials said Iran’s main proxy, Hizbullah, was believed to have been trained to install chemical warheads on tactical munitionsincluding short-range rockets.

The Israeli Approach to Bio-Defence
"The IIBR (Ness Ziona-based Israel Institute for Biological Research), was tasked with preparing solutions to the threat of biological warfare, but reportedly faced severe budgetary constraints in the decades following its creation, causing it to seek funding from commercial ventures. The turning point came in 1991, when Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles rained down on Israel and security officials found themselves wholly unprepared for the possibility of unconventional warheads. From the early 1990s onward, the IIBR was provided with large budgets aimed at constructing an adequate bio-defense program."
Today, the biological threat against Israel stems from a combination of terrorist groups and rogue regimes such as Iran, which the US government suspects of experimenting with biological weapons based on ricin and smallpox, and Syria, which has also been accused of operating a bio-weapons program. In recent years, Israel has acknowledged that groups hostile to the state have the motivation to carry out bio-terror attacks, and the increased threat prompted the Defense Ministry to establish a new bio-defense research program at the Home Front Command's headquarters in Ramle last year. Dr. Tzvika Doshnitzky, formally head of the Nuclear-Biological-Chemical Branch of the IDF's Medical Corps, has described biological terrorism as the most dangerous of threats because of the difficulty involved in immediately determining that an attack has taken place. In a paper titled "Biological terrorism is alive and kicking," which was published in February in the Israeli journal The Medical, Doshnitzky and two other scientists stressed that early detection was key to addressing a biological attack. "In the past three decades," they wrote, "we have witnessed an increase in attempts by terrorist organizations to use biological warfare materials differently from the way they are used by states."
Israel's extensive expertise in bio-defence should serve as a model for western nations as we face the strong potential of deliberate outbreaks of epidemic and pandemic associated disease. Not forgetting that bio-defence from a military perspective, means ensuring continued operational capability of fighting forces. This too is embedded in Israeli's approach. The Israeli model of incorporating not only medical counter-measures, but conducting routine civil military bio-defence drills, provides far better preparation for and protection against the use of biological weapons than what currently exists in other western nations. 

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