Home Front Command mobilizes to assist Jerusalem and Safed

Ya’alon: The most important thing is of course saving lives.

By
December 14, 2013 13:13
Defense Minister Ya'alon looking at storm map, Dec. 14, 2013

Yaalon looking at storm map 370. (photo credit: Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)

The IDF launched a three-pronged program to assist the Israel Police in dealing with the storm over the weekend.

An army source said Saturday that the three components of the IDF’s plan consist of sending Home Front Command rescue and assistance crews to Jerusalem and Safed; deploying dozens of vehicles and drivers, who have been called up from reserves to carry out rescue and equipment distribution missions; and calling on the IDF Engineering Corps to open up roads blocked by snow.

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“All events are under control, in all areas, including Jerusalem and Safed,” the source said, adding that he did not know of any citizen who was in a life threatening situation.

Many people remain without power, particularly in Safed and will be reconnected with time by the Israel Electric Corporation, the source said. In the meantime, those without electricity are to be visited by soldiers.

Jerusalem has seen two Home Front Command companies visiting vulnerable residents, such as the elderly, and distributing equipment.

“This event is being run by the Israel Police. We will provide immediate answers to all police requests [for assistance],” the source said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited on Saturday a Home Front Command control center, where he was briefed by the Command’s Jerusalem District chief, the Home Front commander, the IDF deputy chief of staff, along with police and Magen David Adom paramedic representatives.

Ya’alon, accompanied by senior defense officials, then visited the Jerusalem Municipality and received a briefing from Mayor Nir Barkat.

“We’re in an unusual event, which Jerusalem has not known before,” Ya’alon said. “The most important thing is of course human life, saving lives. The event is at its peak, and even if the weather improves, the coming night is going to be difficult in terms of cold and ice on the roads, which look open but are covered with a thin layer of ice and could cause vehicles to slide.”

“I’m impressed by what I’m seeing now,” Ya’alon said, referring to responses by authorities. “This won’t be solved in the coming hours. It will take a few more days to recover,” he added.

Army crews tasked with opening roads are giving priority to routes that enable repair teams to get to downed power lines, Ya’alon said.

“The important thing now is to enter a recovery phase,” Ya’alon stated.

“All in all, the event is under control, and the prime minister is holding evaluations every few hours,” he said. “There is absolutely no failure [by authorities] here.”

Ya’alon dismissed suggestions that authorities had failed to respond to the situation appropriately, brushing off talk for any need of a future inquiry.

From shortly after midnight on Thursday, authorities understood they were facing a very large storm, and prepared accordingly, pooling their efforts to respond in time, Ya’alon added.

Two “critical” days remain ahead, Ya’alon said.

Earlier on Saturday, the Defense Ministry deployed an ample quantity of large vehicles, equipment and food rations to assist emergency services operating in the snow in Jerusalem and the North.

Over 30 vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, bulldozers, plows, tractors, generators and salt scattering trucks have been sent to roads around the capital and Safed. Gas balloons and diesel fuel have been sent to police to assist people stranded without electricity.

A woman in labor from the Samaria settlement of Yitzhar was safely air lifted via an IAF Black Hawk helicopter to the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.

On Friday, the Home Front Command set up a control center in Latrun, deploying units to snow-stricken areas.

Drivers stranded on Route 1 and Route 443 at the entrance to Jerusalem were evacuated to emergency help centers established at the Jerusalem Convention Center, in Mevaseret Zion and at the Ofer military camp.

Some 2,000 stranded motorists in the capital and on the highways leading to the city were rescued by police, IDF and Border Police forces.

IDF vehicles and plows were aiding police and municipal employees in efforts to aid motorists.

The Defense Ministry, working with the Public Security Ministry and the Home Front Command, dispatched two convoys of buses, bulldozers and trucks with generators to the capital to assist civilians evacuated to rescue assistance centers.

A convoy set out to Mevaseret Zion via Route 1, and the other headed out to Beit Horon via Route 443. Some 2,500 warm meals have been sent by the Defense Ministry to the stranded motorists.

An IDF source on Friday that said dozens of heavy army vehicles and assistance crews were sent to clear blocked roads from 1 a.m. on Friday onwards.

“We’re prepared for the possibility of the storm continuing into the coming days and we’re ready to provide further logistical support, as well as distributing medicines and food,” the source said.

“We expect difficult weather conditions to continue, and we’re asking all civilians to listen to instructions from emergency services and not come to Jerusalem,” the source said.

The army has gone on a state of alert in the Golan Heights due to the storm, and has deployed dozens of rescue crews and heavy vehicles there on standby.

“We are more experienced with dealing with this kind of weather in the Golan,” the source said.

Israel on Friday decided to open the Kerem Shalom Border Crossing with Gaza to transfer aid supplies to the coastal enclave amid harsh weather conditions hitting the region.

At the request of the UN to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen.

Eitan Dangot, Israel implemented the transfer of gas for heating and water pumps to Gaza facing heavy floods from severe winter storms.

“Israel will do everything that is necessary to assist the civilian populations in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, with an emphasis on providing electricity to the power plant in Gaza,” the army said on its website.

A joint Israeli-Palestinian situation room was opened to help distressed civilians in the West Bank with transportation and electrical concerns.

An unusual blanket of snow surprised residents in the Gaza Strip, who stopped to take pictures of the snowy scenes. But the Palestinian territory was also hit by heavy rain that flooded roads and made them impassable.

Emergency workers used fishing boats to evacuate 700 people from their homes and provide food, blankets and flashlights to hundreds of others caught in high water.

Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.


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