As part of a solution to protect train lines in the south, workers and bulldozers spread out Thursday morning along the Ashkelon-Sderot railways to plant a long continuous line of trees meant to hide the train in the sections exposed to Gaza rocket fire.
Even before Operation Protective Edge, there were concerns that Hamas may try to attack the train along the Ashkelon-Sderot route, which was recently inaugurated. It eventually became clear that in certain areas, the train is completely exposed to fire from Gaza and its movement can be seen from the Strip.
The Israeli train as seen from the Gaza Strip
During the days of the military operation, train service in the south was suspended several times due to fears of anti-tank missile fire from the Gaza Strip. Two days after a permanent ceasefire came into effect, the train returned to regular service.
Protective forestation of Ashkelon-Sderot railways
In the past, many complained that the route was in operation before protective measures were designed and provided. The residents in the area were outraged and said that they couldn't understand why the route was placed in a security-challenged area.
Israel Railways and the Defense Ministry held discussions in recent months and were assisted by many experts to find a proper solution that would serve protective purpose, while causing no damage to the environment.
Therefore, a protective package was created which includes, among others, planting trees along the areas in question in the hope that they will hide the train as it passes through.
This isn't the first time that trees were used as a protective measure from rocket fire. In November 2011 four IDF soldiers were injured by an anti-tank missile fired at them while driving on road 232 near the Gaza border area; seven months earlier 16-year-old Daniel Wiflich was killed when an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza struck a school bus in the Sdot Negev Regional Council.
Following these incidents protective measures were taken along the road surrounding Gaza, and among them was the protective-tree-planting.
Thousands of tall trees were planted in the area to hinder the surveillance and precision capabilities of terrorist cells to hit Israeli vehicles. The purpose of the protective forestry project led by the defense ministry was to create a "green protection" from snipers in the Gaza Strip.