A Patriot missile battery located next to a residential neighborhood in Haifa does not meet safety standards, as it is not far enough from the city's population center.
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The Israel Air Force admitted that the battery, stationed in the Stella Maris neighborhood in 2007, is "situated too close to populated buildings and a public thoroughfare" to be considered safe. The site, located about 50 meters from a residential neighborhood, also exceeds limits in terms of the volume of ammunition stored there. However, the IAF says that the quantity of ammunition is small.
Until now, Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel has allowed the members of the aerial defense array to keep operating there, despite the safety violation.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office says the air force will reduce the amount of ammunition stored there and seek an alternative location for the battery.
The neighborhood residents have complained about the proximity of the battery numerous times. “It’s like we’re part of the base,” says Yaron Carmi, a longtime neighborhood resident. He says that most of the daily problems stem from the noise of the sirens there — the volume was lowered when the residents complained — and the generators that supply power to the battery.
“If there should be a war, we’re actually inside a military base that’s a strategic target for whoever wants to hit it," Carmi says. "All that’s between us is the road. We can see the battery from our windows — it’s just 50 meters away.”
He also noted that because of the presence of ammunition there is "the danger that there might be a mishap or an explosion and we’d be harmed.”
Patriot launchers that belong to the Air Force’s aerial defense array are located there, and an additional launcher is brought in during emergencies or after security assessments. When the IDF intercepted a drone that flew over the Haifa coastline last month, the Patriot batteries could have been used to intercept it, but air force officials used a fighter jet to destroy it.
During the Second Lebanon War, a Patriot battery was deployed in Haifa after upgraded Katyusha rockets struck a hillside in the Stella Maris neighborhood. It was the first time the battery had been deployed there since the Gulf War.
“The Patriot battery was placed at the Stella Maris location in Haifa in 2007 out of operational necessity and to protect the country’s northern skies," said the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. "The ammunition there is stored with proper safeguards. Nevertheless, the air force has given an order to reduce the amount of ammunition and find an appropriate alternative for the location.”