The city of Ariel
The city of ArielIsrael news photo: Flash 90

In the case of a national emergency that would require the mass evacuation of residents of the center of the country, many of the evacuees could find shelter in Samaria (Shomron), said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon.

The evacuation plan is part of an overall Homeland Security effort, part of which included the drills that Israelis experienced earlier this week, in which they were instructed to take shelter twice in one day, when emergency sirens sounded around the country.

The plan would see up to 50,000 people from the center of the country taking shelter in Jewish communities in Samaria in the event of a major war, or the targeting of large cities by chemical or other weapons.

Danon met this week with Samaria Council director Gershon Mesika during the security drill. Mesika described to Danon the advantages of Samaria as a shelter for residents of the center of the country, and Danon expressed his agreement. Among other points, Mesika said it was far less likely that Arabs would target Samaria with missiles, because of the likelihood that they would also hit Arab villages, while a missile to the Tel Aviv area, which has few Arab residents,  would do much more damage to the infrastructure of Israel.

In addition, he said, there were many communities in Samaria that were within 15 minutes of the Sharon coastal region, making it a convenient area to evacuate refugees to if time is of the essence.

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. The Samaria communities have gathered a great deal of experience in working with evacuees, Mesika said, and could furnish an important contribution to national security.

Danon said that the plan made a great deal of sense, because of the infrastructure in Samaria and its proximity to the Tel Aviv area. “Samaria residents are prepared for an influx of tens of thousands of residents of the center and the north, in time of need. We need to prepare for the possibility that we may have to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to the area.”