Security found lacking at strategic Israeli sites

jerusalem | Security gaps found at Haifa Port and Ben-Gurion Airport are liable to be exploited by terrorists to carry out a serious attack, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee warned in a report issued Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The report revealed that dozens of military installations, factories, airports, seaports, communications systems, and fuel depots suffer from a severe lack of security.

It also declared that security gaps expose military and civilian sites in Israel to the potential of dangerous strategic attacks. The committee also found that land phone lines are not adequately protected, and a malicious attack on them could cause serious economic damage.

Some 60 to 80 installations have been pinpointed for boosted security because of the damage an attack would cause during a state of emergency, the potential for environmental damage or threat to a large number of lives.

The committee launched the survey following the attack at Ashdod Port earlier this year that killed 10, but could have caused a larger calamity if bromide tanks had been damaged. The panel completed its top-secret report on Tuesday, Aug. 3, and is

to present it to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and security authorities.

Knesset Member Ephraim Sneh said that he and fellow committee member Omri Sharon went to what he called “an important military installation” in the center of the country, where they found that foreign and Palestinian illegal workers had established living quarters on the perimeter fence surrounding the site. “We still don’t know all the nationalities of the people we found there,” Sneh told Israel Radio.

Sneh, who headed the report, said the Israel Defense Forces must classify and prioritize strategic sites and provide security accordingly.

Sneh slammed the IDF for what he called its systemwide practice of having each military branch determine which of its sensitive installations should receive extra protection, instead of having the matter determined at the level of the General Command.

“We went to these strategic sites, not through the front door, and we didn’t announce our visit. We went in Omri Sharon’s jeep, and we checked for ourselves how well these places were guarded. And they were not so well guarded. A sophisticated, organized terrorist group could carry out a massive, strategic terror attack. A sophisticated terrorist needs to just do a bit of surveillance and he will find a way in, and ways to cause strategic attacks,” Sneh said on Channel 2 TV.

He also said the lessons from the failed Pi Glilot and Ashdod Port attacks have not been implemented. In May 2002, a Jerusalem-based Hamas cell planted a bomb that detonated inside the Pi Glilot fuel depot, but it failed to cause a conflagration. Sneh said his committee would follow up on the report and make another assessment in two months. “We’ll see what has been fixed, and what hasn’t,” he added.

“There is cause for concern, but no reason to panic.”

The committee recommended that 153 sites be brought under police responsibility, and that they establish a security procedure.