Israel plans mass evacuations if future war breaks out

Israel plans mass evacuations if future war breaks out
Israel is drawing up contingency plans to evacuate up to a quarter-million civilians if a full-scale war erupts with Hizballah and Hamas.
2 min read
22 March, 2017
Plans are drawn up for Israel's largest-ever mass evacuation amid rising tensions with Hizballah [AFP]

Israel is preparing plans to evacuate up to a quarter-million civilians from border regions with Lebanon and Gaza if a full-scale war erupts with Hizballah and Hamas, AP reported on Tuesday.

The mass evacuation, under a plan code-named "Safe Distance", will be the largest in Israel's history.

"In 2017, all of Israel is under threat," Colonel Itzik Bar of the Israel Defence Forces' (IDF) Home Front Command told AP.

He said authorities preparing for "very high amounts" of rocket fire.

"We want a meeting of army and Hizballah forces and not civilians with Hizballah forces," Bar said. Evacuations would mainly occur in communities adjacent to the borders, he said.

In 2006 war, Hizballah fired over 4,000 rockets on Israel while Israel bombarded civilian and Hizballah targets in Lebanon, including Beirut's airport.

The month of fighting killed an estimated 1,300 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 165 Israelis, only 22 of which were civilians.

Israel believes that despite being tied down fighting in Syria, Hizballah forces have rebuilt larger arsenals capable of hitting the entire country.

Bar said Hizballah has significantly built up its weapons stockpile since the 2006 war and has upgraded its arsenal to about 150,000 missiles.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said the Iran-backed group is Israel's greatest security threat.

"We are successfully keeping our northern border quiet, to maintain our interest in the north, and to prevent terrorist groups from gaining strength or acquiring advanced weapons," Eizenkot said.

"Hizballah is the number one challenge facing the IDF," he added.

In February, the group's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah claimed that Hizballah will not recognise any "red lines" in a future war with Israel and threatened to attack sensitive targets such as its nuclear reactors and chemical plants.

Meanwhile, Israel also believes that Hamas too has been preparing itself in case a new round of warfare breaks out.

In 2014, 50 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers killed an estimated 2,100 Palestinians and 77 Israelis, only six of which were civilians.

There was widespread devastation in Gaza and thousands of rockets and mortars fired by Hamas and other fighters at Israeli towns and cities.

However, several Hamas officials say the group does not seek a confrontation with Israel now, but that it has developed its arsenal and restored its capabilities to even greater amount than before the 2014 war.

Reports in Gaza suggest Hamas completed repairs to dozens of attack tunnels used to infiltrate Israel that were damaged in 2014.