Israel has begun its largest-ever defence drill, testing the response of its emergency services to a "doomsday scenario" of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and missile attacks from Iran and Syria.

The timing of the drill - just days before the Lebanese go to the polls in a closely-fought election that could see the Hezbollah-led opposition become the new government - has raised suspicions.

The drills also coincide with a regional tour by Barack Obama, the US president, during which he will deliver a keynote speech in Cairo, Egypt.

Israel is under pressure from both the US and Europe to accept a Palestinian state, but also fears a strong Hezbollah in Lebanon and a strong Hamas in Gaza.

Then there is Iran which Israel sees as an imminent "nuclear threat".

But are the drills just a test or are they a dry-run for war? Will they reassure the Israeli public or cause concern about just where their government is taking them?

Professor Mark Heller, a principal research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general, and Scott Lucas, a professor of American Studies at Birmingham University and editor of, join the show to discuss.

This episode of Inside Story aired on Sunday, May 31, 2009.

Source: Al Jazeera