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Sirens sounded early on Monday afternoon in several towns and cities across the country in what the Israel Defense Forces later said was a technical problem with the air raid warning system. The Home Front Command attributed the malfunction to recent testing of the system.

The sirens wailed for about one minute and were clearly heard in communities in the south of the country - where residents are accustomed to hearing the real thing - such as Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ofakim, Kiryat Malakhi and Kibbutz Hatzor. They also sounded in Tiberias, Carmiel, Afula, Nazareth and Ginot Shomron, among other locales.

Thousands of worried Israelis called up local police stations, and were informed of the false alarm.

About two weeks ago a test of the alert system was held in the greater Tel Aviv area, setting off panic among residents who were apparently unaware of the numerous announcements in print and electronic media regarding the test. The rising and falling tone of the "attack" siren began at 10:05 A.M. and continued for about 90 seconds. Many visitors, university students, business owners and ordinary residents panicked, believing war had broken out.

Many people said they did not know about the system test and briefly thought the alarm was real.