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Moving Israeli army training bases from prime real estate in central Israel to the Negev desert will cost about NIS 2.6 billion.

Works ahead of building a "city" of training bases will commence in the coming months. Soldiers will begin moving there in 2009, Brigadier General Reuven Fierst, the head of the IDF Technological and Logistics Directorate, told Haaretz over the weekend.

General services, like food and sport, will be concentrated in one section of the city. The plan includes evacuating the Tsrifin base. The land on which it and other centrally-located bases sit will be sold to help finance the venture.

According to Fierst, the city will be built on 1,065 dunams (270 acres), of which 804 dunams will be for bases, 246 dunams for roads and 15 dunams for external parking spaces. The complex will also include hotels for visitors, a mall, a country club and theaters, to be operated by franchisees.

Fierst added that the city's final location is not yet final. One possible option is Tzomeach Hanegev, a 20-minute-drive south of Be'er Sheva.

Budget issues also remain open: the military and Finance Ministry are still negotiating.

A year ago deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres suggested that the cost of moving the bases would be only NIS 1.9 billion.

IDF sources said the attractive land prices in the center of the country would finance the higher than expected costs.

They added that since the bases to be evacuated are used only for training, there would be no fear of environmental damage or ground pollution.

Evacuating Tsrifin is part of a general plan to transfer military bases from the country's center to either the north or the south. The Glilot base and the Ramat Gan adjutant base are also slated for evacuation, and are expected to be replaced by thousands of housing units.