Army to Inspect Fire Zone After Elad Children Injured in Explosion

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the city of Elad. (Michaeli)

The IDF will sharpen its efforts to ensure that a former fire zone adjacent to Elad will be free of leftover military materiel, army investigators said in a report to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott Monday.

The investigation of an incident in which several children from Elad were injured in an explosion last December showed that there had been a “lapse” in ensuring that the area was completely safe, the report said.

The incident, in which an old explosive device blew up in a former fire zone right outside Elad, saw three children injured with light to moderate injuries. The report said that the area had not been inspected as well as it should have been, and that it would be examined again to ensure that no old explosives were still on site.

A survey of the area after the incident yielded 184 military items onsite, including 11 unexploded bombs or devices.

The area has been closed since then. After the incident, Elad conducted special classes for children in schools near the area to warn them about entering the area, and to explain the dangers. The area will also be searched thoroughly at least twice a year, the army report said.

The exercise area is slated for construction that will significantly expand Elad, more than doubling the size of the city and allowing for the construction of thousands of new homes. The exercise area was used by the IDF for decades as a shooting range and weapons proving grounds. Elad was developed as a city for the chareidi and religious public in the 1980s, and the government even at that time had proposed including the exercise area as part of the future city.

The exercise area is located east of Elad, and is the only area that will allow for expansion of the city: A nature reserve to the north, a large rock quarry to the south, and Road 6 to the west has hemmed in the city and prevented further development. The city administration has been requesting transfer of the area for years, and current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has been taking the matter very seriously, city officials said. In preparation for the transfer, the army at the beginning of 2017 stopped using the area as a fire zone.