Breaking News

TODAY'S TOP STORIES

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Israel plans mass evacuation if war erupts again

JERUSALEM (AP) — If Islamic militants in Gaza or Lebanon go to war with Israel, they could find their usual targets empty.
Israel is drawing up contingency plans to evacuate up to a quarter-million civilians from border communities to protect them from attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah or other Islamic militant groups.
The mass evacuations would be the biggest in Israel's history, part of a bigger plan where the army works with municipalities to keep civilians safe.
All sides have been preparing in case a new round of warfare breaks out, although Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group sworn to Israel's destruction, currently is tied down in Syria's civil war fighting in support of President Bashar Assad. It also comes amid an uptick in tensions between Israel, Syria and Hezbollah.

Each side has warned that a new conflict would be worse than previous ones. Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets on Israeli communities in the 2006 war, while Israel bombarded militant targets in southern Lebanon. The month of fighting killed an estimated 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, as well as 44 Israeli civilians and 121 Israeli soldiers.

In 2014, 50 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers killed an estimated 2,100 Palestinians, six Israeli civilians and 66 Israeli soldiers. There was widespread devastation in Gaza and thousands of rockets and mortars fired by Hamas and other Islamic militants at Israeli towns and cities.

Israel says Hezbollah and Hamas have rebuilt larger arsenals capable of hitting the entire country. Elements of the evacuation plan, codenamed "Safe Distance," were disclosed by a senior Israeli officer in an interview to The Associated Press. READ MORE