Israel has drawn up contingency plans to evacuate up to 250,000 civilians from border communities in the event of a large-scale terrorist attack. Plans were drafted under the code-name ‘Safe Distance’ to prepare civilian communities for attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah or other terror groups.
Hezbollah fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli communities during the 2006 war. The Iranian-backed terrorist group has warned that future conflicts with Israel will be far more destructive and violent. Operation ‘Safe Distance’ was created to remove civilians from areas of conflict and allow Israeli forces to engage militants directly.
“In 2017, all of Israel is under threat,” said Col. Itzik Bar of Israel’s Homefront Command. The idea is to “remove the threat by not having civilians there, We want a meeting of army and Hezbollah forces, and not civilians with Hezbollah forces.”
The Israeli government claims Hezbollah stockpiles and arsenals are larger than ever before and pose a threat to civilians living in border towns. Attacks launched near the country’s border can sometimes increase the likelihood of civilian casualties. Preparing an evacuation plan will allow Israeli forces to quickly and safely engage.
“In places where we understand there is a great danger to civilians, for example, where we won’t be able to supply defenses or supply deterrence … we will evacuate,” said Bar.
A senior security official, that spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the plan for operation ‘Safe Distance’ resulted after the previous experience gained during in the 2014 Gaza war, during which communities were not evacuated and residents eventually left on their own accord.