State comptroller: IDF unprepared for massive civilian casualties in wartime
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State comptroller: IDF unprepared for massive civilian casualties in wartime

Homefront Command units lack capacity to operate in multiple locations and evacuate people from upper floors of high-rise buildings, report says

Soldiers from the IDF's Homefront Command perform search and rescue exercises during a nationwide, week-long, emergency preparedness drill in March 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers from the IDF's Homefront Command perform search and rescue exercises during a nationwide, week-long, emergency preparedness drill in March 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces Homefront Command is not prepared for the possible devastating effects of a future war on Israel’s civilian population, the State Comptroller warned in a report published on Wednesday.

The report said that conclusions from scenarios examined and discussed by the security cabinet in 2016 were not passed on to the Homefront Command and that “all the implications of preparing for a possible war scenario and its effects on civilian life had not been fully considered.”

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira said the situation required the direct involvement of the defense minister, the head of the Israeli Air Force and the commander of homefront forces to ensure the situation is rectified. Another section of the report dealt with the readiness of Israel’s heavy-lift helicopters, which would also be involved in rescue efforts, should they be required.

The report relating to rescue units also said that because the security cabinet  forecast had not been heeded, there had been no review since 1992 of the makeup and size of  Homefront Command units, and that it was impossible to say whether they were too large or too small to cope with current-day disaster relief requirements.

“According to operational plans presently in force, it is possible that standing army rescue battalions will, at the start of hostilities, be required to carry out rescue and recovery as well as civilian evacuations. In such a situation, both efforts could be  adversely affected,” the report said.

Rescuers are also poorly prepared to act in high-rise buildings because they have not trained in such scenarios. The report said units would be unable to extricate people stuck on upper floors at multiple locations and that great devastation would hamper them further.

The preparedness of reserve units was deemed “poor to mediocre,” and the report said commanders had admitted as much. It added that soldiers could not broaden their rescue skills because they practice repeatedly at the same rubble sites that are well known to them and do not present a fresh challenge.

A shortage of heavy mechanical equipment, including bulldozers, will also render reserve units far less effective, rendering them unable to discharge their assigned tasks at scenes of major devastation. The number of ambulances would also be inadequate with civilian medical evacuation vehicles overstretched. And with the military able only to allocate eight percent of vehicles that the Homefront Command would require, it would be impossible to ensure a swift removal of casualties to hospitals, the report warned.

There was no immediate comment on the report by the military.

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