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Amid criticism of the government's handling of the home front during the war in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Kiryat Shmona on Monday. At least 1,000 rockets were fired at the northern town during the month-long war - the most fired at any region in Israel.
On Sunday, the government approved a task force headed by Olmert to focus solely on the strengthening and development of Haifa and the North, a project expected to cost over NIS 4 billion.
Olmert visited a local school that sustained three direct rocket hits. He then met with local council members, where he faced the residents' ire, Army Radio reported.
One councilman said, "I have never witnessed such decay and poverty. Stop disrespecting us. Where are you leading our region?"
"How is it possible that the government did not evacuate those who were forced to sustain rocket barrages day after day just because they did not have the funds to temporarily locate to a safer place?"
Another told the prime minister that her children had lost faith in the state. "Children shouldn't feel as if they have no one who cares for them. I do not want Kiryat Shmona to be forgotten after the war," she said.
Head of the Hermon Regional Council Benny Ben-Muvhar said that if it were not for the external help he received, the situation would have been far worse. "The fire extinguishing unit in our council was active only because of the donations that had been received," he revealed.
Olmert replied to the complaints by saying, "I would rather focus on the future rather than the past. This is why I came here today. I promise you that a commission will be established and we will know how to learn the necessary lessons."
The PM did not hesitate to pin some of the blame for Israel's war with Hizbullah on his predecessors, saying they had not responded in time to the danger posed by the Lebanese guerrillas.
"We knew for years that there was a great danger, but for some reason we didn't translate that understanding into action, like we just did," Olmert said.
"We knew what Iran was doing, what Syria was doing, in arming Hizbullah. We acted as if we didn't know," said Olmert.
He defended his government, saying it had only been in power for two months when the war broke out. The fighting "was a wakeup call that allows us to defend ourselves better so what was won't be," he said.
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