Two and a Half Million Israelis Lack Access to Bomb Shelters, Military Official Says

Half of the Arab communities within 4 km of the border with Syria or Lebanon said to have inadequate protection, compared to 7.5 percent of the Jewish communities in the same zone

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Inside a bomb shelter in the Golan Heights in May 2018.
Inside a bomb shelter in the Golan Heights in May 2018. Credit: Gil Eliyahu

Two and a half million Israelis lack proper protection from airstrikes and some 700,000 homes are unprotected, the head of the military's civil defense command said Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, the head of Israel's Home Front Command, told a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussing community emergency preparedness that of 50 national infrastructure sites that the state has earmarked for increased protection from attack, just 10 have been reinforced.

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According to Yadai, half of the Arab communities that are within four kilometers of the border with Syria or Lebanon have inadequate protection, compared to 7.5 percent of the Jewish communities in the same zone.

“All of the kindergartens within four kilometers of the border aren’t reinforced. Who will bring food to the shelters under constant shelling?” Kfar Vradim Mayor Sivan Yehieli, who heads a forum of northern Israel border communities, asked the Knesset members. “There are no facilities for food preparation. If you don’t bring food or medicines, people won’t be able to stay there,” he added.

“Instead of cutting taxes and adding a few dozen shekels to monthly wages, the budget surplus should be used to close the terrible [gap of] inequality in emergency preparedness, particularly in the north,” said MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union), who conducted the discussion.

The heads of the Eastern Galilee Regional Cluster, which represents 15 local authorities, submitted a formal request to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, asking that a five-year plan to protect the Galilee and the Golan Heights be drawn up. The council heads warned that maximum protection must be afforded to private homes, Ziv Medical Center in Safed, regional health clinics and educational institutions.

The subcommittee convened less than a week after 20 rockets were fired by Iranian forces from Syria at the Golan Heights. Four of the rockets were intercepted by the army’s air defense systems and the remainder landed in Syria. 

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Monday that the rocket attack had set the stage for “an entirely new phase.”

Addressing Israel, Nasrallah said: “If you thought that you could kill and bomb without receiving a response, then you are wrong and misguided, and the response will be in the appropriate form and time.”

He added that a message had been delivered to Israel via an international party that if it crossed “red lines” then the “next bombardment would be in the heart of occupied Palestine.”

“The message delivered... is that neither the Syrian leadership, nor the Syrian army, nor the Syrian people, nor the allies of Syria will allow Syria to remain exposed to Israeli attacks and they are ready to go to the furthest extent,” Nasrallah said.

With reporting from Reuters.