Exactly 20 years after Iraqi missiles fell for the first time in central Israel at the start of the first Gulf War in January 1991, the commander of the Dan region in the IDF Home Front Command says that "danger has returned to Tel Aviv. Under any war scenario, it will be hit by a large number of missiles, missiles that are precise and lethal. However, our preparedness to deal with such missiles has also improved."
Apart from the 20th anniversary date, the willingness of Colonel Adam Zussman to be interviewed about threats posed to the region under his command, comprised of 16 local councils and Tel Aviv, with 1.5 million residents, underscores IDF concerns about possible war scenarios. Such scenarios point to a large number of missiles that are expected to fall on cities in the Gush Dan region, hundreds of casualties and destroyed buildings. Such scenarios encourage the municipalities to develop emergency plans.
The Home Front Command now recognizes that the time has come to clarify to the public what might be in store. "Clearly, the Dan region is the most threatened area," Colonel Zussman says. "All districts are now in range of the enemy, but terror organizations have the ability and motivation to target the Dan region. This time, in contrast to the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, long-range weapons are in large quantity, and they are more lethal. We know what the missiles and rockets will do, in terms of the scope of casualties and destruction to infrastructure and buildings."
Regarding Tel Aviv, Zussman does not mince words. "We know that this city will be hit during the next round. We don't know whether it will happen on the first day of the fighting; that is the enemy's decision, and it has the ability."
The anticipated dimensions of damage feature several dozen missiles with large warheads, hundreds of casualties, dozens of destroyed buildings and major infrastructure damage. The scenario, which has been relayed to Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, relates to a situation in which Israel engages in war with Syria and simultaneously faces Hamas and Hezbollah, and possibly also attacks from the outer rim of hostility, namely Iran. But Zussman stresses that even if the warfare is limited to just one front, in the north or south, Hamas or Hezbollah has the capability to fire dozens of missiles at Tel Aviv. "[Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah says categorically that Tel Aviv is the State of Israel's socio-economic center, and that he is making every investment to reach it," Zussman explains.
The Home Front Command divides local councils in Israel into two groups, those which are liable to "endure attacks," and those which should "absorb [vacated] population" groups. All the Gush Dan councils are now listed in the first category. Colonel Zussman says that he is satisfied with preparedness steps taken by local councils under his authority. "We presented the scenario to [Tel Aviv Mayor Ron] Huldai and his aides. They are not surprised; they knew that this is the situation and that they have to take steps that go beyond the routine."
These steps include the identification of underground facilities that can be used temporarily by civilians who live in old or unprotected houses. Large parking garage facilities are expected to serve as temporary shelters for tens of thousands of foreign workers who live in regions that lack protected structures. However, every resident of Tel Aviv is liable to need temporary underground space, in cases where a warning siren finds him or her outside the home or at work.
The Home Front Command faces a special challenge in Tel Aviv: providing security for, and protecting the continued activity of essential institutions, including the defense ministry, the IDF General Staff compound, central offices of large banks, the stock market, hospitals and more.
"The first missile will come as a boom," says Zussman, who would effectively become military governor of the Dan region the moment a state of emergency is declared. "It will certainly surprise the apathetic citizen who is sitting and drinking coffee ... but this boom will come quickly, and everything will rapidly enter a state of emergency routine. My goal is to return citizens to cafes as quickly as possible."