A Home Front Command report on the preparedness of cities and towns in southern Israel in case of a rocket attack from Gaza reveal alarming figures.
The report, obtained by Ynet, states that out of 204,000 residents in the city of Beersheba, 58,000 are defined as "residents without standard protection," who do not have fortified spaces readily available, and will be forced to run to public shelters, basements or underground garages in case of an emergency.
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Out of 264 public shelters across the city, 87 require renovation at an estimated cost of NIS 4.4 million (about $1.2 million). In addition, 67 out of 82 schools need some 9,000 square meter of fortification at an estimated cost of NIS 90 million (about $24M).
In the city of Ofakim, 12 of the 22 schools are in need of 2,400 square meters (about 26,000 square feet) of fortification, with an estimated cost of NIS 24 million ($6.3M). Kindergartens in the city are in even worse condition, with 43 out of 49 kindergartens missing 645 square feet (about 7,000 square feet) of fortification against rockets.
Scene of Grad landing in Ofakim (Photo: Eliad Levy)
In Ashkelon, which has some 113,000 residents, more than 31,000 lack standard fortification, though all public shelters are in good condition after undergoing renovation following Operation Cast Lead.
On Wednesday, four Qassam rockets were fired toward Gaza vicinity communities. In response, IAF aircraft bombed a smuggling tunnel in the northern Strip overnight Thursday. Early on Thursday morning, another rocket exploded in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported.
Not sufficient. Iron Dome battery (Photo: Shaul Golan)
The IDF has reiterated that the Iron Dome missile defense system and a forth battery slated to be deployed next year will not provide sufficient protection against potential rocket fire. However, the report indicates that there is severe shortage in conventional fortification measures.
Amid growing voices in the Knesset calling to launch another offensive in Gaza, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said he would support a ground operation in the Strip. However, such a move will most likely prompt massive rocket fire on south and perhaps central Israel, and might result in many civilian casualties if sufficient protection is not provided.
"Everyone can be smart after the fact, like the Gaza vicinity residents, who only got fortification after they paid with their lives," the official added.
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