Bomb shelters in north ‘do not provide required protection,’ says state comptroller

During tour of northern border communities, Matanyahu Englman also cites severe strains on civilian security teams as central problem

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, right, and Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Arkady Pomeranets touring a bomb shelter in the city, October 17, 2023. (Courtesy State Comptroller’s Office)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, right, and Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Arkady Pomeranets touring a bomb shelter in the city, October 17, 2023. (Courtesy State Comptroller’s Office)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said on Wednesday that there are serious deficiencies in the preparedness of northern towns and communities in the event of a war with the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

A lack of adequate bomb shelters, the poor state of maintenance of existing shelters, and severe strains on volunteer civilian security teams operating in the region were the comptroller’s main criticisms.

Englman made his comments after taking a tour of border communities in northern Israel close to the Lebanese border on Tuesday, including the city of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, just seven kilometers from Lebanon.

He said some bomb shelters are extremely poorly maintained and that there was a general lack of adequate bomb shelters in old residential buildings in the region.

Englman also pointed out that the volunteers of the armed civilian security teams that provide emergency security protection for small communities cannot currently perform their day jobs since they are on almost permanent duty due to the repeated attacks by Hezbollah and Palestinian terror factions from Lebanon against Israel over the last two weeks.

The state comptroller’s office is now trying to have these volunteers formally drafted into the IDF reserves in order to allow them to keep serving in the security teams and receive a salary from the army. Englman said his office has requested that the defense establishment and the government deal with the problem immediately.

A picture taken on October 15, 2023, shows smoke billowing near an Israeli military site close to the southern Lebanese border village of Aita al-Shaab, following shelling by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group. (AFP)

He also noted that the security teams lack equipment.

Some civilian security teams in several towns and communities on the border with Gaza were able to fight off Hamas terrorists who invaded on October 7, saving numerous lives. Critics have noted, however, that many teams had their assault rifles removed by the IDF in recent years due to widespread theft, leaving them unprepared for the terror assault.

During his northern tour, Englman also said that local mayors had told him that government ministries had not been in touch with them sufficiently.

“We are in a shelter in Ma’alot-Tarshiha that is supposed to serve the population in an emergency. The gaps [in preparedness] that have been exposed before our eyes are very significant, in terms of the ability to remain in the shelter during an emergency,” said Englman.

“There is no lighting, the toilets are in a problematic state and there is flooding. These conditions do not allow for the protection required at this time for the residents of the conflict line and the northern border,” he added, noting also that many of the residents in the region are elderly and poor.

“We need government involvement in order to make these protected spaces and the bomb shelters usable along the confrontation lines in the north and south,” demanded Englman, saying this needed to happen “immediately.”

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