Kibbutzim plan for possible evacuation

In event of Gaza operation, buses will pick up any of the 5,000 kibbutz residents who wish to leave.

Kassam hits house 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam hits house 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The United Kibbutz Movement revamped its emergency evacuation plan on Thursday for the 24 kibbutzim situated along the Gaza border within firing range of Kassam rockets and mortar shells. In the event of a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip, the kibbutz movement will send buses to pick up any of the 5,000 kibbutz residents who want to leave temporarily, according to its spokesman Aviv Leshem. The residents would be transferred to other kibbutzim in the region that are out of firing range, giving them a temporary haven while allowing them to study and work in the area, Leshem said. He added that it would likely be mostly women, children, elderly and the infirm who would take advantage of the plan. The plan would only be put into practice in the event of an emergency such as a large scale military operation in Gaza, he added. Cities such as Ashkelon, with a population of 120,000, and Sderot, with a population of 20,000, are also in range of Kassam rockets and missiles that Palestinians launch from Gaza. But kibbutzim located close to the border have additional problems to contend with, explained the kibbutz secretary of Nir Oz, Eli Elgarat. Already they hear and feel the effects of the smaller scale IDF operations that take place in Gaza. Palestinians are firing on them as they work in the fields, he said. He and other members of the border kibbutzim already feel as if they are living in a war zone, even though the IDF has - so far - refrained from a large scale military action and is instead pursuing a truce, he said. A mortar shell that landed on the Nirlat paint factory at Kibbutz Nir Oz last week killed Amnon Rozenberg, 51, a worker there who was a member of the neighboring Kibbutz Nirim. When a second shell fell on Wednesday, Elgarat and other members of the kibbutz administration immediately made their own plans with a neighboring kibbutz to house families with young children that might want to sleep elsewhere. In Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which lost one of its members in a mortar attack last month, a rotating group of some 10 to 15 families have already been taking short breaks by sleeping in nearby kibbutzim. "Children shouldn't grow up where the first word out of their mouth is 'boom,'" said Elgarat.