Israel prepared to evacuate hundreds of thousands from northern border in a war

Close to a million Israelis live in the North; an estimated quarter of a million could be evacuated in case a war breaks out with Hezbollah.

March 23, 2017 04:53
3 minute read.
eldad regev

AN ISRAELI soldier stands near a mobile artillery unit as it fires a shell into southern Lebanon on July 13, 2006, a day after IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted by Hezbollah. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Home Front Command has a contingency plan to evacuate hundreds of thousands of residents who live on the border with Lebanon, a senior IDF officer in the command told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Close to a million Israelis live in the North; an estimated quarter of a million could be evacuated in case a war breaks out with Hezbollah.

“In the past we didn’t think of needing to evacuate whole communities, but now we understand that we will have to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people,” the senior officer said.

Hezbollah’s technological abilities and battlefield experience have grown as it fights in Syria for the regime of Bashar Assad.

“There have been significant regional changes that no one expected to happen,” the senior officer said, adding that “the changes on Israel’s borders have made it so that the IDF needs to prepare for wars against groups and not armies.”

According to him, the Home Front Command today is not the Home Front Command of five years ago, due to those changes.

“We always need to ask if we are relevant and prepared,” he said, and that is why it is not only the threat posed by Hezbollah rocket barrages that concern the IDF and the Home Front Command but the very real possibility of ground attacks by the terrorist group against civilian communities.

“We listen to everything that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah says, and we understand that there is a real meaning behind his threats. In the past we used to tell the civilians to go to their bomb shelters, but now we know that it is not smart to have civilians on the front lines in times of war,” he said.

“It is impossible to evacuate all one million residents, but we are working with the communities as well as emergency services to prepare those living in communities directly on the border for the possibility of a mass evacuation.”

The communities that would be evacuated would be housed in hotels, schools or guest houses of other communities, such as those in the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem, Eilat, as well as in West Bank settlements, away from the front lines in the North, in their entirety, he said, adding that, depending on the situation, whole communities could be housed together.

According to the senior officer, the Home Front Command will work hand in hand with the Northern Command, now headed by Maj.- Gen. Yoel Strick (who was the head of the Home Front Command until last week), as well as with emergency services and volunteers, to make the evacuations as organized and as possible.

While the IDF thinks Hezbollah is unlikely to attack Israel in the near future, the Lebanon border remains the most explosive one, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating.

Hezbollah is known to have rebuilt its arsenal since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, with at least 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel, including Tel Aviv.

In February, Nasrallah, the terrorist organization’s leader, warned that “Israel should think a million times before waging any war with Lebanon,” as in the next war with Israel, his fighters would have “no redlines.”

According to some Israeli analysts, the next war with Hezbollah might see 1,500-2,000 rockets shot into Israel per day, compared to the 150-180 per day during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Israel has made it clear that it will continue to work to prevent the group from acquiring advanced weaponry, reportedly striking weapons convoys in Syria destined for the group, including last Friday when the army made a rare admission of a strike in Syria after a surfaceto- air missile was fired by the Syrian regime against IDF jets.

It was the most serious clash involving the IDF since the civil war broke out in Syria six years ago.

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