Israel builds first underground hospital

Jerusalem, Feb 7 (IANS) Israel is building a first-of-its-kind underground hospital in the northern city of Haifa that will protect patients and staffers from any missile attack, whether biological or chemical, a media report said.

The construction of the hospital will be completed in May, Xinhua cited the Ma'ariv daily as saying.

The new hospital comes amid growing tensions between Israel and its neighbours, Syria and Lebanon.

The facility, located three storeys underground, is set to be the largest of its kind in the world and should be able to accommodate 2,000 hospital beds.

The report said $500 million dollars have been invested in the project.

"To prepare the hospital for such attacks, we have a closed system of electric grid, communications, oxygen and water," a construction official said.

Last week, Syria said a research centre was hit by an Israeli air strike. Media reports, however, said Israeli jets hit a weapons convoy on its way from Syria to Lebanon, to transfer arms to militant group Hezbollah.

The report said Syrian and Iranian officials have spoken about a possible retaliation against Israel and, therefore, Israel is preparing itself for such an attack.

The Israeli army has also reportedly deployed three anti-missile Iron Dome batteries in northern Israel, including one in Haifa.

The project came into being following the 2006 war with Lebanon, in which Hezbollah fired dozens of long-range missiles at Israel, targeting Haifa as well, the third largest city in the country.

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