By David Daoud
Residents of Haifa, in northern Israel, have expressed their fears that Lebanese based terror group Hezbollah will target ammonia tanks in the city, which store more than 15 thousand tons of gas, and will cause the deaths of tens of thousands of the city’s residents.
The Israel Defense Forces yesterday published a new scenario assessment of a war in the north of Israel with Hezbollah, the first put out by the IDF since 2007. According to the IDF’s estimates, in the next conflict with Hezbollah, Israel is expected to absorb over a thousand rockets fired by the group every day, a large number of which will have GPS guidance systems providing them with more accuracy to hit targets within Israel.
A senior source in the IDF said that, “today it is possible to fire rockets at all parts of the country – from Dan to Eilat. And it is no secret that the northern areas are in more danger. Therefore, our deployments there will be wider. If you ask me, the Home Front is not secondary or second. It is the main front,” according to Israel’s NRG.
“Our enemy has developed, and it is no secret that they are building up their capabilities and strengthening themselves,” said the senior source, adding that, “we are not remaining silent [in the face of these developments], but are working diligently.”
According to the source, the IDF has undertaken a program aiming to improve the Home Front’s preparedness, since according to estimates, hundreds – and up to thousands – of rockets will be fired at a wide array of military and civilian targets, and Hezbollah can also carry out accurate targeting which could lead to extensive civilian casualties.
This bleak assessment, which envisions that the next conflict with Hezbollah will be far more difficult than the Second Lebanon War in 2006, was handed off to the mayors of cities in the North.
This information did not come as news to the residents of Haifa. For years, they have been running campaigns against chemical refineries operating in the Haifa region and the north of the country. Their requests have been focused on removing these ammonia tanks immediately in order to prevent a life-threatening situation from arising at a time of war, leading to mass casualties.
Ella Naveh, an environmental epidemiologist, said that this would be like “a real nuclear explosion” if the tanks are “set on fire because 1,500 rockets are fired in one day, and directed by GPS guidance to target the [ammonia] tanks.”
Naveh, and other environmental groups, have thus been highly critical of plans to expand the number of petrochemical plants in the area, saying that it will greatly increase the already existing risk to the area’s residents.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection responded to residents’ fears, saying that it was “working intensively” with the Israeli government “to reduce the risk from the ammonia tanks in the Haifa Bay area, through the implementation of a resolution approved by the government to establish [an alternative] plant for ammonia production in the Rotem Plain, obviating the need for containers in Haifa, and allowing their closure.”