Ministers and regional officials dedicate evacuation shelter in Samaria as part of long-term plan to use area as 'safe haven' for Israelis.
The first independent emergency evacuation center in Judea and Samaria (Shomron) opened its doors Sunday, according to Walla! News, after a historic ribbon-cutting ceremony with Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).
The center itself, located in the Talilei Orot school building in the northern Samaria community of Tal Menashe, will only hold about 1,000 evacuees.
Beyond basic equipment - mattresses and blankets, heating and hygiene measures, generators, portable water stations, emergency food rations and simple cooking equipment - the evacuation center will also provide basic entertainment for the marooned. Games and toys will be available to comfort scared children. For adults, televisions and radios were added to allow evacuees to continue being aware of breaking developments.
For now, this is the only center in the region to be able to house Israeli evacuees for more than 72 hours and provide their basic needs, but the Home Front Command currently has plans to build at least three total centers in Samaria. The Home Front Command and the Shomron Regional Council have spearheaded the construction plans, with some help from the Water Authority and the Interior Ministry.
The Shomron: The Natural Choice for Safety
Erdan explained that Samaria is the logical choice to build shelter.
"In light of increased threats to the security of the State of Israel, Samaria is the rear [farthest point from the enemy; presumably Gaza - ed.] for Israeli citizens in the event of a missile attack," Erdan noted. "[Samaria's] proximity and accessibility to large population centers in Gush Dan and Jerusalem, its topographical and geographical advantages, and the high motivation shown by area residents [to protect Israel] makes it the best location to house tens of thousands Israeli citizens in an emergency situation."
The plans for the center were first laid down about five years ago, according to Shomron Regional Council Vice President, Yossi Dagan.
"Samaria is suitable as a shelter for residents due to its proximity to Israel's center," Dagan stated, noting that a drive from Tel Aviv to the central Shomron is only about 30 minutes. "[It] has the highest mountains in the case of a chemical attack, which are more suited than along the coastal plain where the decline of chemical substances can be fatal."
The Shomron: Key to Israeli National Security
Erdan concluded the ceremony by congratulating Dagan, along with Shomron Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika, on the center's completion. The Minister also urged the Defense Ministry to place long-term plans for more evacuation centers to the top of their priority list.
"The only war scenario that exists today is a scenario of thousands of rockets landing every day on a large number of Israeli communities," Erdan warned. "On the last day of the Second Lebanon War, after the IDF spent over a month attacking Lebanon, Hezbollah still managed to fire over 200 missiles and rockets."
"And that is when it had only 10,000 missiles and rockets," Erdan added. "Today, Hezbollah has 80,000 missiles and rockets and all the enemies of Israel together have nearly 200,000 missiles and rockets."
"No government authority has the ability to provide continuous protection against the threats [of rocket fire], against fear," Erdan noted. "This is our answer to what the enemy is trying to do."
Mesika added that the evacuation centers, and the plans to build them up for the sake of saving thousands of Israelis, demonstrate the utmost importance of the Shomron for Israel's security.
"These plans emphasize how important the Shomron is for the security of the State and its citizens," Mesika stated. "Without the Shomron, it will not be possible to protect the residents of central Israel, and the establishment of this center today is another manifestation of this. This is another indication that relinquishing parts of Samaria will be a direct hit on the safety of residents of the State of Israel."
The center's dedication ceremony was held just one day before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama to discuss the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The US framework for negotiations has demanded that Israel retreat to 1949 Armistice lines, according to recent reports, despite mounting evidence that a withdrawal would severely compromise Israel's national security.