June 8, 2007:
An Israeli firm has developed a
portable bomb shelter, the LifeShield, which can hold 30 people, for protection
against rocket attacks by Arab terrorists. Using rockets to attacks Israeli
civilians has become a favorite Arab terror tactic over the last six years.
One of the most active areas for such terrorist
attacks against civilians has been southern Israel. Namely the area within
seven kilometers of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Within that seven
kilometer border zone live about 40,000 Israelis. A little more than half of
them live in the town of Sderot. In 2001, Palestinian terrorists, unable to get
suicide bomber across the security fence along the Israeli border, began firing
home made "Kassam" rockets into southern Israel. The rockets used metal pipes,
filled with a mixture of fertilizer and sugar as a propellant, and a few pounds
of explosives and a contact fuze in the front end. Although some fins ate
attached, the missiles are not very accurate, most of them missing a large
urban area like Sderot.
Since 2001, about 1,600 Kassams have been fired at
Sderot. Nine people have been killed, and about fifty injured. The Israeli army
has developed a radar system that provides 10-15 seconds warning, which is
enough time to duck into a shelter. But Sderot only has 80 bomb shelters, most
of them built 20-30 years ago and in need of repair. The 130 square foot
LifeShield is made out of concrete and sheet metal, weigh 42 tons and is simply
placed on the ground. The shelter is bulletproof, and can withstand a direct
hit by a Kassam rocket. The shelters cost $36,000 each, including delivery to
anywhere in Israel.
Eleven years ago, Israel passed a law mandating
that new houses have at least one "bomb proof" safe room, to be used as a
shelter during rocket attacks. But most builders have ignored the law. It's
expensive. When the government built such safe rooms in 170 schools, it cost
about $442,000 per school. To add such a room to existing houses would cost
about $25,000 per home.
For the last seven years, people in Sderot have
just been ducking behind any kind of cover, when they hear the alarm. Most of
the people killed or injured were hit by a rocket that did not trigger an
alarm. It was largely a case of an unexpected "boom", and that was that. But in
the last month, the terrorists have increased their rate of attacks, averaging
over a hundred rockets a week. As a result, about a third of the Sderot
population has left town, hoping that things will eventually quiet down. The
terrorists are encouraged by last Summers barrage of 4,000 Hizbollah rockets,
which killed 57 Israeli civilians (half of them were Israeli Arabs), and
wounded about 200. The target population in the north was about ten times what
is was in southern Israel, but many civilians up north left their homes after
the first rockets fell.
Israel is also developing an air defense system to
shoot down such rockets, but does not expect to have anything operational until
2009, at the earliest. Meanwhile, the company that makes LifeShield has already
delivered four of them to Sderot, and has proposed building bomb proof bus
stops to provide even more protection.