JERUSALEM – Israel's air force held a large-scale exercise simulating war on several fronts with enemies that include Iran, Israeli defense officials said Friday.
The practice this week involved Israel's entire air arm and was meant to prepare for an all-out war, including missile attacks aimed at Israeli cities, the officials said. It lasted four days, ending Thursday.
Israel periodically conducts such exercises. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the exercise were not made public.
The military said it was part of its annual training program, using the word "routine" twice in a brief statement sent to reporters.
But it comes at a time of increasing friction surrounding Iran's nuclear program, which Israel believes is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon it sees as an existential threat.
Israel has said it prefers to block the Iranian threat through diplomacy, but will not rule out a military strike.
The military said the exercise included both regular army personnel and reservists, releasing no further information. Israel plans a nationwide exercise next month simulating missile attacks aimed at civilians.
On Wednesday, Iran test-fired a new rocket, the Sajjil-2, which it claims has a range of 1,200 miles — meaning it could easily reach Israel. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking re-election next month, has suggested in the past that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Israeli officials lauded the exercise.
"I visited the exercise and was very impressed," lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi, who heads the Israeli parliament's defense committee, told Army Radio on Friday. "It's no secret that the time for decisions is approaching, in all of the world's leaderships."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the maneuver "important."
"What we saw strengthens our certainty that we have people we can depend on," Barak said in a statement.
Iran was one of the main topics of discussion at the White House this week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama held their first meeting.
The new U.S. administration has said it will engage Iran, reversing the policy of the Bush administration. At the same time, the new U.S. leadership is threatening to pursue more international sanctions against Iran if those efforts fail.