The Home Front Command has in recent weeks notified the nation’s 257 local authorities of an increased threat posed by Hezbollah’s rockets in Lebanon.
The update is part of the Home Front Command’s mission of working with local authorities to prepare them for war, and informing them of the latest assessments regarding potential emergencies.
According to the current information, which replaces assessments that date back to 2007, in just one northern town such as Kiryat Bialik, near Haifa, hundreds of rockets could strike – dozens would hit a day – and hundreds of civilians may have to be evacuated, a senior Home Front Command source said on Tuesday.
Should Hezbollah carry out an all-out blitz on the home front, a town the size of Kiryat Bialik (with some 40,000 residents) can expect hundreds of civilians to be lightly wounded, dozens moderately to seriously injured, and a few fatalities. Thousands of apartments would sustain light damage, and hundreds would be moderately damaged, according to the assessment. Hundreds of residents would likely suffer shock.
“The scenario we are looking at is not a prediction of what will be. It spells out what we are building up our capabilities against. We believe we can stand up to the challenge,” the army source said.
Hezbollah could fire between 1,000 and 1,500 rockets a day at Israel in a full-scale conflict, and throughout the course of a war, hundreds of civilians could be killed in Israel, he added.
“The past conflicts [with Hamas in the Gaza Strip] are not the test we are preparing for,” the source said. “We are preparing for a northern scenario. We are building our forces for this.
“Eighty percent of our ability to deal with this will come from preparation ahead of time,” the officer said.
“If civilians prepare themselves, and absorb the information we send out, if they receive an early rocket alert, and have the correct protection, they have more than a 90 percent chance of surviving,” the source said.
He warned, however, that “safe rooms” in private homes could not withstand a direct hit by a heavy Hezbollah rocket, such as an M-600 projectile.
Air defense systems, particularly the Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries, will mainly be used to protect strategic and military installations to ensure “the continued functionality of the State of Israel,” said the source. “This is the only way to shorten the war and quickly recover the day after. It will also decrease the damage to the national GDP,” he said.
The Home Front Command estimates that the economy will lose between NIS 2.5 billion and NIS 2.8b. a day in any full-scale conflict, in which Hezbollah showers Greater Tel Aviv with rockets.
The officer said he was disturbed by the slow pace of preparations taken by vital factories and private sector sites.
“We have identified what products are vital for the economy, and the components that manufacture them. We have categorized the strategic, vital factories, and helped them prepare,” said the source. “But this is a drop in the bucket.
The situation in this regard is not good. We have to continue pushing this train along, to immunize the continued functionality of the market. Time is the critical asset. We are in a race against time. When our enemies want to, it will surprise us. The only solution is systematic preparation. The Home Front Command is the only organization doing this. Every hour, it is looking toward the day when hostilities break out.”
The source said, “If you ask me, I don’t think the Home Front Command is the secondary front, and it hasn’t been so for a while. I think it is the main front.”
If the Lebanese terrorist organization wants to, it can hit military installations alongside civilian areas, he added, due to its drive to obtain more accurate, guided rockets.
“Hezbollah is rapidly upgrading its attack capabilities,” said the source.
“We are adapting as well, improving the readiness of the home front for the challenge of war.
“We have to take into account the enemy’s capabilities, intentions, and operational constraints. Then, we have to factor in our offensive capabilities in the air, ground and sea, as well as our defensive capabilities – rocket shelters, alerts, and the level of readiness among the general population,” said the source.
The 257 heads of local authorities understand that “their job entails dealing with emergencies. With them, we will win the next war,” he said. “We remind them that in emergencies, it is they who will receive the first calls from civilians. They, together with first responders, are the cornerstone of the home front.”
Local authorities will have to ensure the continued provision of basic services during wartime, such as garbage collection, water, electricity, baby food, diapers and that is money in cash machines.
Still, 27 percent of Israelis have no rocket-protected zone in their immediate vicinity.
The source’s recommendation to civilians during a war is to stay home.
“Your home is your fortress,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we are preparing for possibility that cities like Eilat will absorb thousands of civilians fleeing rockets. Such cities have to prepare to receive a 4 percent addition to their current populations.”