The Israel Police on Wednesday launched one of its largest ever security operations, deploying a record 15, 000 police officers to protect US President Barack Obama on his first official visit to the country.
US Secret Service agents and local security forces have jointly rehearsed contingencies and simulations of possible scenarios in the weeks leading up to Obama's arrival, from an assassination attempt to disruptions of order.
"We have no information on planned terror attacks," said Brig. Gen. Nissim Mor, head of the Israel Police's Operations Division. "This is not the first visit of US president, but we are not taking any chances and the security measures are stringent."
Obama's 600-member entourage includes senior administration officials and advisers, reporters covering the White House, Secret Service, military and logistics personnel, and the presidential motorcade consisting of 60 vehicles, including fire-fighting trucks and ambulances.
During his three-day stay in Jerusalem, Obama will be driven around in what the Secret Service aptly nicknames The Beast, a 300, 000 dollars bullet-proof vehicle that is sealed against chemical and biological weapons, rocket fire and roadside bombs. And it carries emergency blood units and oxygen tanks.
While the Israelis are widely reputed for their rich experience in VIP protection, the Secret Service is ultimately responsible for guarding Obama. US Air Force Galaxy C-17 transport planes in recent days unloaded at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv the two Marine One helicopters that fly the president at home and abroad, as well as a fleet of 12 military Blackhawk helicopters, armored limousines impenetrable to light arms fire and explosives, and encrypted communications gear.
Additional security measures include vehicles equipped with anti-missile jamming devices, a heavily-armed special unit assigned to the Secret Service assisted by members of the Israel Police's counter-terrorism unit, as well as a team of experts trained in handling dangerous materials, Israeli media said.
Following the state welcoming ceremony at the airport on Wednesday noon, Obama traveled to Jerusalem by helicopter, enabling the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway to remain open to tens of thousands of commuters.
In Jerusalem, however, Israelis were bracing for major traffic congestions, with police sealing off many of the city's streets and roads for the presidential motorcade.
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