Residents in communities near Gaza react to military estimations of possible escalation of rocket attacks
by Matan Zuri
Published: 01.01.07, 10:20
Pessimistic estimations by the IDF that a military confrontation may take place in Gaza during the summer of 2007 are causing residents in Sderot and surrounding communities to prepare for such a scenario and its implications in their communities.
The Shaar Hanegev and Ashkelon Beach Regional Councils formulated a program for mass evacuation in the event of an unusually massive rocket barrages. These communities, in close proximity to Gaza, have been suffering continuous Qassam barrages for months.
Regional council leaders have appealed repeatedly to the government regarding the fact that most structures in the area are not fortified, but their requests to rectify this have gone largely unanswered.
"The process of providing one security room per house is not advancing, and the government is doing nothing," complained Alon Shuster, head of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council and initiator of the evacuation plan.
"Senior officers in the Southern Command tell us openly that an escalation of rocket attacks is expected soon. We have no choice but to protect our lives by ourselves, without waiting for government instructions."
Both regional councils have formulated plans in the event that the area falls under an increased barrage of Qassams from Gaza. In the Shaar Hanegev region, whose kibbutzim sustain rocket hits on a regular basis, the planning process is in full force.
In the first stage, the regional school next to Sderot will be shut down. Elementary school students will study in makeshift classrooms in the Brur Hayil Kibbutz, which is out of Qassam range.
Teenagers will stay in their homes or in fortified structures and study via internet: Teachers will go over lessons on live broadcast, sent out to all students connected to the internet.
The cost of the program has reached hundreds of thousands of shekels. "Preparations (of the classrooms) are almost complete…We hope that the Education Ministry will contribute along the way," Shuster said.
The Shaar Hanegev region has about a dozen kibbutzim, containing over six thousand residents. The minute that immediate evacuation is decided upon, residents will receive a message by phone call or text message.
In each kibbutz, a special team has been established, who will help the residents and keep in touch with a central operations room, which will be set up in the education center.
The regional council intends to have a practice exercise in January, to test their preparation for an emergency situation using the new program.
If the situation escalates even further, most residents will evacuate to kibbutzim in the strip of land near Eilat, until the barrages recede. A small team will remain in each kibbutz near Gaza, to continue necessary daily maintenance: Milking cows, gathering eggs, plowing, etc.
Preparations in the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council are less extensive, since only five of their communities are within Qassam range: Four kibbutzim and one town.
In the event of intensified attacks, over a thousand residents will be evacuated to the agriculture school in Kfar Silver and the youth camp near Beit Hadar, where classrooms will be converted into temporary housing.
The regional council's security officer Gideon Sharabi said that if the rocket attacks require further evacuation, additional residents will be transferred to towns on the periphery of the region, near Hadera.
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