Millions don’t have access to bomb shelters, gas masks, army warns

Former opposition head says that before initiating war, a country should make sure its home front is prepared

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A man tries out a gas mask at a distribution center, July 25 , 2012. (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
A man tries out a gas mask at a distribution center, July 25 , 2012. (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

A quarter of the population does not have easy access to a bomb shelter or safe room, even as fears mount of a military  engagement with Syria or Iran.

The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command said many regional authorities are still not prepared to deal with a regional war and millions of people are still without gas masks, Haaretz reported Wednesday.

According to the Home Front Command, only 53 percent of the population has gas masks and only 30% of households have a reinforced safety room. A quarter of the population does not have a bomb shelter in their building or even close by.

The inclusion of a reinforced safe room to provide protection against missile and bomb attacks has been a requirement in all new residential buildings since the 1990s. This replaces the former arrangement of installing bomb shelters beneath buildings or in communal locations.

Home Front Command sources estimate that a quarter to a third of regional authorities are not ready to deal with an emergency. The Gush Dan area is better prepared than outlying authorities.

However, in an interview with Haaretz, Home Front Command head Brig. Gen. Tzviki Tessler said the chance of a chemical weapon attack on Israel is low, even with the worrying developments in Syria.

“We are carefully following events in Syria,” Tessler said. He noted that there has been no change in the state of readiness of the Home Front Command.

While the goal of equipping 4.5 million people with masks by 2013 should be reached by the end of this year, Tessler said, he added that there was no target date for completing the provision of gas masks to all 7 million Israelis.

Last week, Home Front officer Eyal Eisenberg said that at any given time there are 200,000 missiles aimed at Israeli territory.

“You can see the process that is going on in Syria — that happened with Hezbollah, Hamas, and in Iran,” Tessler said. “It is a process of intensification that brings with it more than anything else missiles with a greater range, a greater number of missiles, and improved accuracy and increased warhead sizes.”

Concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile amid the turmoil of civil war in that country have seen an increasing number of Israelis arrive at countrywide distribution centers to obtain gas masks.

In an address to students at the National Security Research Institute Wednesday, former opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that if Israel wanted to initiate a war it should make sure that its home front was protected first.

“There is no disputing that the home front is not ready. That is something that needs to be addressed before any decision is made about a strike,” said Livni. In a jab at Prime Minister Netanyahu, she added that there are some instances where “a super-tanker just won’t help,” referring to the large firefighting plane Netanyahu ordered to put out the Carmel forest fire of 2010.



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