An Iron Dome battery deployed in the north of Israel following concerns of airstrikes from Syria, May 9, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There are over 150,000 homes within 100 km. of the northern border that are not protected in case of rocket fire, the Home Front Command warned Monday.
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) called on the Finance Ministry to immediately budget an updated rocket- warning system and greater fortification in the North, amounting to about NIS 5-6 billion. However, a Finance Ministry representative said that only NIS 150 million has been dedicated to the matter so far this year.
“We see it as a severe problem that the Israeli government is not prepared for a phenomenon we’re all living with,” Gafni said. “When there is a conflict in the South, all the systems work; if that didn’t happen, there would be much greater damage. We will not give up – this must be implemented in the North.
“We pray this won’t happen, but we know that the North could be exposed to attack,” Gafni added.
During the Finance Committee meeting on the budget to fortify homes, the Home Front Command presented the following figures: Within a kilometer of the border, 413 homes are missing a safe room; in the 1-4 km. range, 4,250 homes do not have one, and at 4-9 km.
12,160 don’t have one. At the 9-20 km. range, there are 36,000 homes without a safe room; at 20-40 km. there are 100,000. Each new safe room costs approximately NIS 100,000.
Golan Vach, head of the fortification section at the Home Front Command, said that their recommendation is for the state to fully fund the safe rooms within 6.5 km. of the northern border, and to give stipends to lower-income families who live beyond that range.
However, the Finance Ministry representative at the meeting, Eli Bing, said there is no budget for in-home safe rooms. Rather, the budget dedicated to fortifying the North this year is meant to ensure that all bomb shelters – which are usually communal – are fully usable.
Vach also said that sirens in the North only warn when a rocket is about to fall, rather than giving the 15-20 second warning residents of the Gaza border area have.
According to Vach, the fortification of all schools in the Golan Heights is almost complete.
Education Ministry Emergency Preparedness Manager Sha’altiel Rambam said there are 58 schools in the North that still need to be fortified.
Most hospital functions are fully fortified, and hospitals that are not have plans prepared with the Home Front Command to ensure that patients can continue to get care in case of an emergency, a Health Ministry representative said.
Former defense minister MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) warned that “at the end of the day we define the Israeli citizen’s ability to deal [with emergencies only by this]: Can the State of Israel continue its everyday routine during a confrontation, and where? “In the South, the routine can continue during a confrontation, not only when there is just tension,” Peretz added. “We should decide that surplus taxes collected next year be invested in fortification and improving home-front preparedness.”
Gafni called on the government to immediately begin installing a better warning system in the North.
“If something happens, God forbid, they’ll find the money. We’re asking them to do it in advance. We may have to refrain from passing [Finance Ministry budget requests] here until there’s a deterrent,” Gafni threatened.