No budget means no headway on replacing bomb shelter windows in Gaza envelope

Project to replace some 8,000 windows estimated to cost NIS 60 million.

Israelis get ready to leave a public bomb shelter and go back home, following Israel-Hamas truce, in Ashkelon, Israel May 21, 2021. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Israelis get ready to leave a public bomb shelter and go back home, following Israel-Hamas truce, in Ashkelon, Israel May 21, 2021.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

Almost six months since Operation Guardian of the Walls, and the Defense Ministry and IDF have yet to refit bomb-shelter windows in communities close to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip because of the lack of a government decision.

The IDF announced in June that following a recommendation by Home Front Command, the windows in the bomb shelters in communities within seven kilometers of Gaza would be replaced with thicker windows due to the projected increased lethality of rockets fired from there.

Though many bomb-shelter windows are only 16 mm. thick, as regulations do not demand more, standard bomb-shelter windows are 24 mm. thick. New regulations require the windows to be 32 mm. thick.

Despite new regulations and plans by Home Front Command to fix the windows, there has been no headway on changing them due to a lack of government decision or budget.

Following months of work by Home Front Command, there are now 17,000 mamad safe rooms, or bomb shelters, within seven km. of the Gaza Strip, and of those, an estimated 8,000 windows will need to be replaced at a cost of NIS 60 million.

Should all the 17,000 be replaced, that would cost an estimated NIS 119m.

An Israeli girl carries her belongings as she walks out from a public bomb shelter back home, following Israel-Hamas truce, in Ashkelon, Israel May 21, 2021. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)An Israeli girl carries her belongings as she walks out from a public bomb shelter back home, following Israel-Hamas truce, in Ashkelon, Israel May 21, 2021. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

The military, which continually meets with regional authorities, has felt the pressure for the project to start and understands the urgency. It has said the work can begin immediately once it receives the green light.

An updated intelligence report found that Gaza terrorist groups are in possession of rockets with new capabilities that are relevant within a range of seven kilometers.

It was the first time that such a decision was made retroactively, and it was done “to ensure the safety of the citizens of Israel in accordance with the threats posed,” the IDF said.

Shortly after the fighting in May, the Home Front Command, which is responsible for the construction of bomb shelters and their windows, began work on the new regulations for window size. The new regulations came into effect recently, and all new private bomb shelters built since the May war will receive windows that are 32 mm. thick.

Civilian companies that make the windows have been given the new regulations, and have met with officers from Home Front Command so that they can replace the windows properly should they be approached by individuals who chose to fund the work on their own.

It is estimated that one window would cost between NIS 5,000 and NIS 7,000.

The recommendation was made following a secondary investigation into the death of six-year-old Ido Avigail, who was killed on May 12 when a piece of shrapnel penetrated the window of the bomb shelter where he and his family were sheltering from a barrage of rockets targeting Sderot and communities in the Gaza periphery, as well as cities in central Israel.

The incident was the result of an “incredibly rare” convergence of events, then-IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said at the time.

“It was a piece of the rocket that came in at a very specific angle, at a very specific speed and at a very specific point,” he said, adding that the window plating had been constructed properly.

“We are most committed to the protection of the citizens of Israel, and are working to ensure that they are provided with the most up-to-date safeguards in response to emerging threats,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said at the time.

The IDF recognized during the fighting that despite the Iron Dome, Hamas rocket barrages are an area of weakness. The military has been working to improve the ability to locate buried rocket launchers throughout the Gaza Strip.

Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets, mortars and anti-tank-guided missiles toward Israeli cities during the 11 days of war, killing 11 civilians and one soldier. Avigail was the youngest of the Israeli casualties.

The IDF bombed hundreds of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets, including rocket manufacturing and production warehouses, and killed senior operatives responsible for Hamas’s rocket and missile program. A total of 256 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, including dozens of Hamas and PIJ terrorists.