(Apr. 13, 2011) On March 30, 2011, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed an amendment to the Civil Defense Law, 5711-1951. The Law regulates various procedures for defending Israel's civilian population from any attack or a threat thereof. According to the amendment, “an attack” includes an arial bombardment, artillery or missile shelling, and any other long-range shooting by the “enemy,” as well as any other attempt to inflict harm by an army of “an enemy state.” In defining “enemy,” the Law applies the definition provided in the Penal Law 5737-1997, as amended, to include anyone who is or declares himself to be a belligerent or who maintains or declares himself to be maintaining a state of war against Israel, whether or not war has been declared and whether or not armed hostilities are in progress, as well as any terrorist organization.
According to the bill's explanatory notes, the need for passing new civil defense procedures has arisen in view of the new threats posed to homeland security. These procedures were determined on the basis of the experience gained by Israeli emergency response units, especially during the period of preparedness for the possibility of an attack by Iraq in 2003, the 2006 Lebanon war, and various operations in the Gaza Strip, including the December 2008-January 2009 Israel Defense Forces' operation in Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”).
One of the main organizational changes introduced by the March amendment is the unification of various emergency situations into one termed “special situation in the homeland” that would result in authorizing various agencies to act in defending the homeland. A declaration that such a special situation exists will last for 48 hours, unless extended periodically in accordance with provisions of the Law. In addition, the amendment introduces a short-term “period of attack” for a particular area, which begins with the start of an attack or with the sounding of a siren and ends 24 hours later or when an all- calm signal is sounded.
The amendment also voids various outdated bodies and authorities previously allocated to regional areas and replaces them with state-wide arrangements.
(Civil Defense Law, 5711-1951 [in Hebrew], 5 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL (LSI) 72 (5711-1950/51), as amended; Civil Defense Law (Amendment No. 15), 5771-2011 & related bill [both in Hebrew], the Knesset website (both last visited Apr. 8, 2011); Penal Law (5737-1997) [in Hebrew], LSI (Special Volume) §91, as amended.)