In an emergency meeting held late last week in light of threats from Syria, the Samaria Regional Committee was instructed to prepare in case the region is asked to absorb Israelis from the Tel Aviv region.
Samaria (Shomron) could be used as a refuge in case of a chemical weapons attack from Syria. Military experts believe enemy armies will not target Israeli communities in Samaria due to the relatively high risk of missing and hitting an Arab city.
In addition, the relatively low population density of Israeli communities, compared to Tel Aviv, would make them much harder to hit. If chemical weapons were used in the region, the high altitude means chemicals would be likely to disperse much more quickly than they would if used in a low-altitude area.
Samaria has other advantages, as well: it is just 30 minutes from the Tel Aviv area, and has room for many thousands more people due to its many hotels and hostels, built for tourists.
In case of war, evacuees could be housed not only in tourist facilities, but also in public buildings, as guests in family homes, and, in more isolated areas, in tent cities on Israeli state land.
This is not the first time Samaria has been asked to prepare to provide refuge in case of war. Communities in Samaria have in the past taken in evacuees from other areas, albeit in a limited amount, and in an unofficial capacity. Tel Aviv residents took up residence in Samaria communities during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, while northern residents flocked to Samaria during the Second Lebanon War, and Negev residents took shelter there during Operation Cast Lead.
Years ago the deputy Defense Minister – then Matan Vilnai – adopted an emergency plan put forth by the Samaria Regional Council; the plan has since served as the basis for emergency absorption preparedness in the area.
The evacuation plan was studied again during a national security drill earlier this year.