Israel Invests in Bomb Shelters Near Gaza Strip

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SDEROT, Israel - The Iranian-backed terror organization Hamas is continuing to stockpile rockets and weapons in the Gaza Strip for the next round of war against Israel.

However, Israel has been preparing, too, by updating its defenses - one home at a time.

Sderot, a community of some 20,000 Israelis, could also be known as the "bomb shelter capital of the world."

"And you can see a three stories up bomb shelter. It's very unique," Sael Abecassis, with Sderot Media Center, told CBN News.

"There's no places like that in the whole world, of a bomb shelter being attached to an old building," he said. "And they building like 5,000 of those all over the city."

During the last decade, thousands of rockets and mortars have been fired at Israeli communities from Gaza. Many fell in Sderot - killing 14 people, wounding 1,200, and traumatizing countless others.

Behind Hamas - Iran provides money, weapons, and training. Noam Bedein, also with Sderot Media Center, said that puts the city on the frontlines.

"While we talk abroad about al Qaeda. we literally have Iran in Sderot's backyard - one kilometer away from Sderot," he said.

The builders put in long hours. They've completed 3,000 shelters already and the last 1,500 should be finished by the end of next year.

Probably one of the most unique bomb shelters in the world was built in Sderot near a playground. The local children know they have just a few seconds to run for cover and find protection inside the shelter when the red alert siren sounds.

Eden Alfasi's room looks like that of any 12-year-old. But when the color red sounds, it becomes the family shelter.

He said the fear still sticks with him.

"Fear. It begins and it's something that doesn't end," Eden explained. "For example, I traveled abroad recently and when another kid my age heard a boom, it didn't affect him. But I was scared."

Almost three years ago, CBN News was interviewing Hava Gad in Sderot when the siren sounded. She had no shelter, so she and the news crew crouched in the hallway.

Israel's government is investing almost $135 million to build shelters in Sderot and other likely targets within about four miles of the Gaza Strip. They have also had to build 14 new schools because reinforcing the old ones even partially was too expensive.

Bus stops have become mini-shelters, too.

In 2005, Abecassis' 17-year-old cousin couldn't find a shelter, so she threw herself over her younger brother to protect him during a Kassam rocket attack. He survived, but she didn't. Now, it's relatively quiet thanks to Israel's military operation in Gaza nearly two years ago. However, residents know they must be prepared.

"If they're building 5,000 bomb shelters all over and they're investing half a billion shekels and all the school being protected, you don't need to be a prophet to know what they expect to the future," Abecassis said.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Reporter

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