Tel Aviv readies bomb shelter amid Iran tensions
(CBS News) JERUSALEM - Israel is transforming the parking lot of the Habima National Theater in Tel Aviv into a sophisticated bomb shelter for 1,600 people amid fears of war with Iran. When the theater was renovated last year, city officials decided to kill two birds with one stone: bringing the old theater into the 21st century and upgrading the fortified underground parking lot into a shelter in the event of a national emergency. The facility can be sealed and has ventilation to keep air safe if Israel comes under attack with chemical weapons.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the West believe Iran is building nuclear weapons. Israel sees that as an existential threat and has threatened to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, if Western diplomacy fails.
But officials here have warned that an Israeli attack could prompt a massive missile barrage from Iran, as well its Islamist proxies: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The military says Hezbollah alone has 60,000 rockets and missiles aimed at the Jewish state.
Israel has been beefing up the home front to deal with the threat. Many parking lots can be quickly turned into bomb shelters and there have been frequent civil defense drills. Most homes and apartments also have bomb shelters. But one thing is curiously missing: Israel has not distributed gas masks to the public as it did ahead of the First Gulf War in 1991 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Does that mean that an Israeli attack on Iran isn't imminent? Is Israel simply bluffing to get the US and the West to impose tougher sanctions on Iran? No one knows. But there's plenty of saber rattling and Israel seems content with holding its cards close to its chest and keeping everyone guessing.
Iran will top the agenda when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday. The United States opposes military action, and it has sent senior officials to Jerusalem over the past six weeks to urge Israel to give sanctions on Iran more time.
But Israel is not making any promises. Israeli leaders say they are grateful for American military aid and political support, but their bottom line is clear: When it comes to Israel's security and survival, its decisions are its own.
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