Home Front Command: 1.7 million left defenseless in case of attack (YNetNews.Com -Yedioth Internet) Ynet Published: 03.18.12, 14:22)
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Government neglects to protect periphery, poor communities,
educational institutes, leaving 40% of Israelis without gas masks if
strike on Iran is realized; many left without bomb shelters
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focuses on the Iranian
nuclear threat, Israel´s home front is suffering from tremendous
neglect. Israeli officials claim that if in fact Israel strikes in
Iran, some 1.7 million Israelis will be left exposed, without bomb
shelters or bunkers.
Moreover, 40% of the population will not have gas masks and in most
schools there is not enough room to harbor all of the students. These
statistics only increase the gaps between wealthy municipalities and
poverty-stricken ones, officials say.
Experts agree that the Israeli home front will be the focus in any
attack scenario against Iran´s nuclear facilities, but situation
assessments show that not a lot has been done to improve the local
Even if the government renews production and allocates some NIS 1.2
billion ($320 million) to the only two factories working in Israel to
manufacture the necessary protection devices, they still would not be
able to catch up and make up for lost time.
Itai Bar-On, deputy general manager at one of these factories told
the "Washington Post" that the production line is only functioning at
7% capacity. He added that about a third of the factory´s employees
have been laid off in recent months.
Moreover, approximately 60% of Israel´s public bomb shelters were
found unfit in a recent examination conducted by Home Front Command
officials. Hundreds of mobile shelters are needed in Israel´s
southern communities, a worrying figure considering the recent
escalation and rocket attacks on the area.
Many of Beersheba´s older neighborhoods have been left defenseless,
just like many educational institutes in Ofakim, Ashdod and Ashkelon.
These municipalities have asked the government to provide them with
portable shelters. Given the recent rocket attacks from Gaza, Rishon
Lezion, Rehovot and Ramla have also taken interest in such shelters.
"There are some 1.7 million residents living in Israel who don´t have
a bomb shelter or a bunker," cautioned chairman of the Foreign
Affairs and Defense Subcommitteefor the Examination of Home Front
Readiness, MK Zeev Bielski (Kadima).
"We´re talking about some 400,000 homes and apartments, most of which
were built in the 1950s… In case a war breaks out, these residents
will be told: ´Sit under a doorpost.´"
"Israel has made a great effort to coordinate between the different
emergency forces. But this urgency was not realized in the budgets.
We must change the Israeli way of thinking regarding this issue," a
Home Front Command official told an American newspaper.
According to Bielski, the Home Front Command recently presented a new
project intended to protect stairwells in older buildings, but the
project was not carried out due to budgetary issues.
"This is only the beginning," he said. "The biggest scandal involves
ABC (atomic, biological and chemical protection) kits. The State of
Israel has issued ABC kits to anyone who demands them, fully knowing
there are not enough gas masks to go around. It must be made clear
that this is not an off-the-shelf product and we cannot order it from
"I visited the factory in Kiryat Gat, where the production line has
already been wrapped in nylon. If, god forbid, an emergency situation
was to occur, mayhem will break out. The way things look now, lawyers
should be hired for the next inquiry committee," Bielski concluded.
Another major failure on the ground has to do with the financial gaps
between local authorities in the country.
"There is a direct connection between financial stability and a
community´s readiness as far as bomb shelters and bunkers go," Beit
Aryeh Council Head Avi Naim. "Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Ranana and
Herzliya have better protection than the periphery, the Arab sector
or poor cities like Bnei Brak, Ramla and Lod."
´Third world country´
Such gaps also can be found in Tel Aviv´s southern
neighborhoods. "We´re not part of Israel, we live in a third world
country. It might be both funny and sad to think that Bibi
(Netanyahu) is ready to go to Iran, but southern Tel Aviv is just too
far for him," remarked Habiba Ezra, a resident of Tel Aviv´s Neve
"There are no shelters here, only garages. There is no one to talk
to," she added.
The financial gaps in Israel´s society are also apparent across
educational institutes. "Many schools don´t have enough space to
shelter all of the students," explained Avi Kaminsky, union chairman
for the directors of the education department.
As for Israel´s northern communities, lessons have been learned after
the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Some 550 shelters were renovated in
the Upper Galilee and turned into public shelters in 2008.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav insisted that his city has been getting ready
for various scenarios. "Since 2006 we have been intensively busy
making arrangements… preparing for difficult events," he stated.
"It´ll cost billions to decrease these gaps, and this money will come
out of the education, welfare or Trachtenberg budgets, but it´s non-
existent. Even if it did exist, its contribution would be mostly
psychological," a defense official concluded.
Yoav Zitun, Moran Azulay, Gilad Morag, Boaz Fyler, Ahiya Raved, Maor
Buchnik and Tomer Velmer contributed to this report (Copyright 2012 ©
Yedioth Internet 03/18/12)
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