December 29, 2008

IDF to Be'er Sheva: Open Bomb Shelters

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( The Home Front ordered Be'er Sheva to prepare for Katyusha rockets and to open 250 public bomb shelters, bringing back memoires of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 when families slept in shelters during Egyptian attacks.

Flyers are being distributed throughout the city, the country's seventh largest, advising residents that they will have one minute to run for cover in the event of a rocket attack. A wailing siren will sound for 90 seconds, and people are advised to remain in the shelters for at least five minutes before an all-clear signal.

Mayor Rubick Danielovitz called on citizens to continue their daily routine but to be on high alert. Yavneh, east of Ashdod, and Gedara, north of Kiryat Malachi, also are issuing warning notices to residents following three rocket attacks on the Ashdod area on Sunday.

Hamas has threatened it will surprise Israel with longer-range rockets and with more powerful explosives than used in the past. Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), warned the Cabinet last week that Hamas could strike Ashdod and Be'er Sheva.

Be'er Sheva is known as the "Capital of the Negev Desert" and is home to nearly 200,000 people. However, its shopping centers attract tens of thousands others, mostly Bedouins, from outlying communities.

It also is the home to the sprawling Ben Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center, which often treats Arabs from Gaza. Except for the Yom Kippur War, when Egyptian tanks rolled over the Sinai border, Be'er Sheva was spared from terrorist attacks until the year 2004, the fourth year of the Oslo War, when 16 people were killed in twin suicide bombings on local buses. Hamas took responsibility for the attacks.

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