Comptroller: Start fortifying Sderot now

The government must start building safety rooms in Sderot immediately, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss told the Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday attended by the new OC Home Command, Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, and Sderot residents. "We have an obligation to the residents of Sderot and all the talking must come to an end," he said. "We must fortify the city immediately." Lindenstrauss added that most of the recommendations of his report on the state of the home front before and during the Second Lebanon War had not been implemented by the government thus far. He also said that some of the figures he had been given regarding the fortification of Sderot were "not necessarily facts, but more in the realm of wishful thinking." According to the latest army statistics presented to the committee, 400 Kassams have fallen on Sderot and other Gaza-periphery communities since the beginning of 2008, compared with 1,150 throughout all of 2007 and 1,488 in 2006. Golan outlined the plan approved on Sunday by a special ministerial committee to provide safety rooms or other forms of security for 8,000 homes within a radius of seven kilometers from the Gaza border. The first stage, which is due to be approved by the cabinet, calls to construct 3,200 safety rooms. Golan said the government had already spent NIS 500 million to set up a warning system and fortify kindergartens and schools in Sderot and other nearby communities. Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) blasted the government for allegedly failing to protect Sderot and the periphery. "No other country in the world would allow anyone to attack a city within its borders," he said. "They would know what to do in this situation. The government is abandoning the residents of Sderot and failing to do its job." He also blasted Prime Minister's Office Director-General Ra'anan Dinur for refusing to attend the meeting. "The question of fortifying Sderot is not a matter of coalition and opposition," said Orlev. "Whatever has to do with the strength of the state to withstand threats belongs to the national consensus and therefore there must be cooperation between the government and the responsible opposition." On Wednesday the High Court of Justice will hold a hearing in response to a petition by Sderot residents demanding that the state build security rooms for 800 housing units in the city that have tiled, instead of concrete, roofs. The government had informed the court on Monday that it will start building security rooms for 3,200 homes in a range of 4.5 kilometers from the Gaza Strip border pending cabinet approval. According to the plan, which was approved on Sunday by a special ministerial committee, 2,100 security rooms will be build in Sderot and 1,100 in the surrounding rural communities. The state told the court that the plan will be brought before the cabinet for approval no later than March 2.