NIS 327m. approved for Gaza belt

Olmert says home fortification, Iron Dome, early-warning system, to be in place by 2010.

Kassam top quality 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam top quality 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
The cabinet on Sunday approved NIS 327 million for fortifying thousands of buildings in Sderot and the Gaza envelope communities. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told ministers that by 2010 a multi-layered system will be in place to protect local residents, but he stressed "There is absolutely no intention to reinforce every residential unit and every structure; there is no need for such extreme measures." "There will be a combination of several systems, with the Iron Dome anti-missle system first and foremost. It will provide a response to a significant portion of the actual threat posed by rockets - with various ranges - against the residents of the region." But the Iron Dome system cannot be guaranteed to intercept incoming projectiles within four and a half kilometers of the Gaza border and therefore under the government plan a nine-square meter secure room will be built for 8,000 buildings constructed before 1992 in the communities of Sderot, Nir Am, Gabim, Erez, Ibim, Zikim, Netiv Ha'asara, Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom, Kissufim, Mefalsim and Kramiya. Other elements of the multi-layered system include early-warning systems and the reinforcing of new public structures and schools. A total of 14 new schools are being built in the area and all will be constructed to withstand Kassam hits. Sunday's cabinet meeting also approved the transfer of NIS 2.2m. for fortifying the Sapir Academic College, just outside of Sderot. The move was welcomed by the head of the college Dr. Nahmi Paz, who noted that 45% of the classrooms have been closed by order of the military after the "special situation" was declared last year following a sharp increase in Kassam attacks. "You can imagine what it means to run a college with half the classrooms closed," Paz told The Jerusalem Post. "Last year we rented classrooms in Beersheba and Ashkelon, but by the end of the year we realized this was bad for the college and we decided not to continue." Paz said 15-20 Kassams had actually fallen inside the campus, which has some 7,000 students. But over the last seven years, some 100 rockets have landed in close proximity to the college. At the cabinet meeting Olmert also praised recent shows of solidarity with Sderot residents, such as Friday's initiative when thousands of Israelis visited the beleaguered town to shop. "It is both correct and important to give expression to displays of solidarity. Thousands of people who have visited Sderot in recent days have, without doubt, given a better and stronger sense to the residents of Sderot that they are not alone and that the Israel people are with them," Olmert said. But he stressed that such gestures did not come in place of measures that should be taken by the government. President Shimon Peres was stirred by the outpouring of solidarity with the residents of Sderot and has commended the masses of people who flocked there last Friday from many parts of the country to do their Shabbat shopping in the beleaguered southern town. "This was one of the great, heart-warming days in Israel's history," said Peres, adding that he was extremely moved to see so many people who in a simple act of solidarity demonstrated identification and concern. It was a delight for him as president to witness this, he said. "We must not leave the citizens of Sderot alone," declared Peres. "Even small deeds warm the heart and are often more helpful than large scale activities." Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.