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Facing Hezbollah threat, Israel ramps up bomb shelter construction in north

Dozens of safe rooms being built adjacent to Lebanon border in Shlomi; bids for construction begin in several other towns, with plans to eventually place them in 21 locations

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Ministry and military engineers work to construct bomb shelters in homes 
in the northern town of Shlomi, June 28, 2022. (Defense Ministry)
Defense Ministry and military engineers work to construct bomb shelters in homes in the northern town of Shlomi, June 28, 2022. (Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry on Tuesday announced that it had begun reinforcement work on dozens of homes in Israeli communities close to the Lebanese border — those that are most likely to be hit by rocket fire in a future conflict with the Hezbollah terror group.

The effort, dubbed Shield of the North, officially began in October, when the ministry’s Engineering and Construction Division, along with the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command, started installing new bomb shelters in homes in the community of Kfar Yuval, northeast of Kiryat Shmona.

In the coming months, dozens of bomb shelters will be built in homes in the northern town of Shlomi, which were constructed in the 1970s without reinforced rooms, the ministry said.

Separately, the ministry published a tender for the construction of 110 bomb shelters in Misgav Am, and is set to publish similar tenders for the towns of Margaliot and Manara in the coming weeks.

The ministry said it was in the “architectural planning phase” of bomb shelters in 12 other locales, totaling some 1,000 homes.

Ultimately, the ministry intends to carry out its Shield of the North reinforcement plan in the 21 communities closest to the northern border. (Shield of the North is not to be confused with the IDF’s Operation Northern Shield, in which the military uncovered a number of attack tunnels dug into Israeli territory by Hezbollah.)

Israeli security forces inspect damage to a house after a Katyusha rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, July 15, 2006. (Pierre Terdjman / Flash90)

The reinforcement plan came after years of promises to improve the shelters in northern communities, which were regularly found to be lacking, despite the high probability that these areas would be hit by barrages from Hezbollah.

A 2020 state comptroller report found that nearly 30 percent of Israeli citizens do not have access to functioning bomb shelters near their homes, including over a quarter of a million people who live near the borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

The Defense Ministry has been conducting a similar effort to reinforce kindergartens in Israeli communities close to the border with Gaza.

According to some national security experts, Israel relies too heavily upon its offensive and active defense capabilities, like the Iron Dome and other missile defense systems, to quickly neutralize threats, instead of building up its physical fortifications and preparing to more safely absorb attacks.

Last month, the Home Front Command practiced a simulation in which Israeli cities could be bombarded with 1,500 rockets a day with 80 sites being heavily damaged and some 300 casualties during a several-day flare-up with Hezbollah.

The terror group has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

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