Southern residents living near the Gaza Strip received instructions on Tuesday to evacuate their residences in the event of emergency, including a call to have packed bags ready, amid simmering tensions along the Gaza border following increased IDF efforts to uncover Hamas’s cross-border attack tunnels in recent weeks.
In a letter by response organizations working under the Defense Ministry, residents were told that “in the event of an emergency, there is a decision to completely evacuate,” and were given clear instructions on which other communities to reach for safety if needed.
Residents were told to prepare a bag with necessities, and in the event of an emergency situation to “lock all doors, close the windows and the blinds, take personal weapons and any pets, along with food, and turn off the gas valve,” Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
Residents were also told that they must report their departure from their towns, in the event of an emergency.
Departure could be made by private vehicles or by buses provided by local councils, according to the instructions.
Residents of Israeli communities near the border have repeatedly demanded increased security and army presence on their perimeters, but the army has insisted that regular troop deployment along the border was enough to guarantee civilians’ safety.
Earlier this month, Israel uncovered another Hamas attack tunnel burrowing into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. It was the second such tunnel discovered in a month. The second tunnel, slated for destruction, was 28 meters (90 feet) deep and was located just a few kilometers from the location of another tunnel discovered and destroyed last month, the army said.
Israeli troops and Hamas forces engaged in a series of fire exchanges in the days following the discovery, which threatened to spiral into another conflict.
Israel has vowed to continue operating to uncover more tunnels but officials maintain that Hamas’s tunnel infrastructure was far from the robust network the group possessed before the 2014 Gaza war, and includes a small number of tunnels only.
Despite the ongoing efforts to destroy the underground threat, Israeli officials stressed that they did not believe there was a substantial danger of renewed conflict on the Gaza border. Hamas has also conveyed to Israel through Egypt that it does not seek escalation.
During the 2014 war, called Operation Protective Edge in Israel, Hamas used its attack tunnels with devastating effect on a number of occasions to ambush IDF soldiers.
The military said it destroyed at least 34 such tunnels during the 50-day conflict.