Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's residence is being outfitted with a bunker that can withstand a nuclear or chemical attack, an Israeli daily reported Thursday. Workers at Olmert's official Jerusalem residence are thickening walls, digging, and installing air purification equipment capable of countering chemical agents, according to the report in the mass circulation
Yedioth Ahronoth. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert, would not comment on the report. "But obviously all governments have an obligation to guarantee the ongoing and efficient functioning of the government in a crisis situation," Regev said.
The Yedioth report quoted anonymous Olmert representatives as denying the construction of a bunker, saying the workers were merely adding a "safe room," a room with thick concrete walls and metal-shuttered windows that is a feature of many Israeli buildings. Israeli construction codes require such rooms to protect residents in case of rocket attacks.
The work at Olmert's residence follows the renovation of a bunker underneath the building housing his office, where Cabinet ministers are supposed to convene in case of an attack on Israel's government center in Jerusalem, the paper reported.
As part of the push to protect Israel's leaders from a non-conventional attack, the paper wrote, Israel is also building a giant nuclear bunker in the hills several kilometers (miles) outside Jerusalem that will be accessible via a tunnel leading from government offices inside the city.
The bunker is supposed to house the military's headquarters and top government officials if the country comes under nuclear attack. Work on the bunker began several years ago and is expected to end in 2011, the report said.
Israel concerns about a nuclear attack are focused mainly on Iran, its most bitter enemy. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, but insists it isn't for military purposes. A US Intelligence report this month said Iran had abandoned its push to become a nuclear power. But Israel believes Iran is still trying to develop nuclear weapons and fears the Jewish state - which also has a sizable nuclear arsenal, according to foreign reports - would be the primary target.