(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Dozens of Grad rockets and mortar shells have been fired on cities and communities in southern Israel since the terrorist attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border last Thursday. Rocket fire on the city of Be'er Sheva has continued since 8:00 this morning (August 21, 2011), and barrages are being fired at the city each hour on the hour.
Since the IDF's response in Gaza to the terrorist attack on Thursday, dozens of rockets were also fired at Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Kiryat Gat, killing several people and injuring dozens more, as well as causing damage to buildings and open areas. Most of the rockets were intercepted by the "Iron Dome" system.
We spoke with Ami Uliel, Director of the southern region of KKL-JNF, about the steps being taken to deal with the emergency situation in the area. He explained that before KKL-JNF's summer vacation, KKL-JNF management together with the Workers' Committee responded to a request made by the region and offered all workers in the area an earlier vacation period so that they could remain with their families.
"Even during summer vacation there will, of course, still be shifts of security workers in the area," Uliel explained. "We are working according to emergency time routine and are on standby to fight fires and receive people in the forests, and all our crews are on alert, according to security instructions. We are in constant contact with the authorities from the army, the security forces, and the regional authorities in the area. We have instructed our workers not to remain in the forests and sites west of Route 232, and to keep their distance from areas that are within rocket range. Work in the other areas continues, with people remaining as close as possible to protected areas, and workers enter protected areas and shelters whenever there is an alarm."
The areas west of Route 232 refers to all communities and sites adjacent to the Gaza border, that include the Be'eri Forest, Kisufim, the area of Kibbutz Erez, Nachal Oz, and Kerem Shalom. "There are three main blocs: the Shikmah Bloc, the Grar Bloc, and the Eshkol Bloc – which extend all the way to the Gaza Strip. We refer especially to the Eshkol Bloc, which extends from the Sa'ad Junction to Kerem Shalom," added Uliel.
Only one week ago a road hidden from rocket fire was inaugurated at Nahal Oz. Ami Uliel noted that: "We received an announcement that Route 25 that goes from the Sa'ad Junction to Nahal Oz was closed precisely when the terrorist attack on Route 12 occurred, and that access to Nahal Oz was only allowed via the new bypass road, which was paved by KKL-JNF together with the southern command's Engineering Corps and the Ministry of Security."
The road is hidden from the Gaza Strip and was paved following the terrorist attack in April of this year in which an anti-tank rocket was fired at a bus carrying students that had stopped near Nahal Oz. Daniel Vifliik, 16, was killed in the incident. The dedication ceremony for the protected road was attended by Matan Vilnai, Minister for the Home Front Defense, and General Tal Russo of the Southern Command, and Yael Sha'altieli, CEO of KKL-JNF.
Minister Vilnai spoke at the ceremony, saying, "Relevant factors were mobilized to pave this new road in less than three months in order to retain a sense of security and offer normal lives to residents in the area. This project has been carried out in addition to planting trees along the Gaza border in order to create a camouflage against terrorists observing vehicle traffic that is moving on the Israeli side of the security fence. The new roads, together with the forestation project being carried out by KKL-JNF, will provide security for residents and students traveling in the area."
Yael Sha'altieli spoke at the ceremony, explaining: "Today marks a new dimension in the cooperation between the residents of the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip and KKL-JNF, which has continued for many years. This time a new partner has joined us – the Engineering Unit of the Southern Command, and we will continue in full cooperation from this day onward. KKL-JNF is pleased at this partnership and appreciates these initiatives. While we are dedicating this project today, KKL-JNF workers are working on a project of security plantings around the communities adjacent to the Gaza border. KKL-JNF workers in the south are working on this project tirelessly and with great dedication and love, and they deserve our appreciation."
Ami Uliel added that KKL-JNF was required to pave the access road that is located within the KKL-JNF forest, extremely quickly. "This road is an example of the advantage of KKL-JNF's ability to mobilize itself quickly in order to carry out complex engineering tasks. Today, because of the emergency situation, this road is the only access to Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and will be used by both the army and civilians."
KKL-JNF' Friends worldwide will no doubt mobilize to help establish these roads, just as they did in order to help plant the camouflage of trees to protect the communities adjacent to the Gaza border. Ami Uliel noted that because of the current emergency situation, KKL-JNF workers are exposed to rocket fire, and the planting has been halted. "Our task was to complete the planting by September, but at this point we are stopping our work because of the rocket fire and will continue when it will be safer to work there." Click here
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