Sderot Protest Campaign Proceeds

The municipality vowed that it would black-out the city from 9:00 PM, as well as undertake protest measures outside of Sderot.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:10

Beginning at 8:00 AM, dozens of Sderot residents blocked the three entrances to their city, allowing almost no one in or out. Exceptions were made for food deliveries, emergency vehicles, and other cases such as two busloads of students on their way to a day-trip. By early Tuesday afternoon, however, the blockade was lifted, to allow residents to travel freely.

The municipality vowed that it would still black-out the city from 9:00 PM, as well as undertake protest measures outside of Sderot.

Sderot's demands over the past several months, which have been especially intensive ever since the four-day wave of over 100 Kassam rocket attacks earlier this month, are simple: Safety from Palestinian-fired rockets.

"The residents feel," said Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal yesterday, during a visit by President Moshe Katzav, "that that the government is not protecting their lives the way it should. The feeling is that [the government] is simply leaving us to our own devices in the face of these rocket attacks."

Five protestors ended their nine-day hunger strike last night, at the request of visiting President Katzav. Many of the residents, including hunger strike leader Alon Davidi and Lt.-Col. (ret.) Chaim Kuznitz, called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to visit as well. "If he can send all his top officials to come, then he can come as well - if only to give us that support," Kuznitz said. "It's too bad that Olmert is still the only one who's scared to come to Sderot," Davidi said.

Mayor Moyal said that the rest of the country appears not to be aware of the "war atmosphere" that the people of Sderot are living through. Aspects of this atmosphere include: the frightening "Red Dawn" warning alerts sounded every time a rocket is fired towards the vicinity; the abrupt closing of schools and kindergartens throughout the city; the perpetual lack of certainty as to where and when a rocket will fall; and more.

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres caused a stir in Sderot yesterday when he belittled the residents' complaints. "[We] have to stop being hysterical about the Kassams," Peres told reporters in the Knesset. "We are all fanning the hysteria. What's the big deal? Kiryat Shmonah was shelled for years. What, there were no rockets in Kiryat Shmonah?" He then said that several measures must be taken to stop the rockets, but did not elaborate.

In response, Moyal said that Peres should be fired. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said that Peres has been detached from "everything that is happening here ever since the days of Oslo" and that perhaps if he visited Sderot, "he would start worrying about the welfare of the Sderot people at least as much as he worries about the Palestinians."

The media is rife with reports of public figures who say that there really is no solution to the Kassam rockets, while those who call for strong offensive action are not given much air time. Labor MK Matan Vilnai, a former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, told Army Radio on Monday that Israel "cannot tolerate a situation in which the Palestinian Authority does nothing to stop the Kassams. There is no reason that Abu Mazen should sleep well at night, while from the area under his control, rockets are being fired at Israel."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, a Sderot resident, similarly said yesterday that either the leaders in the Palestinian Authority take responsibility for stopping the rockets, or they themselves will be targeted. Last night, IAF helicopters bombed a rocket factory in Gaza, causing damage but no casualties.

Mechi Fendel, a mother of six who has lived in Sderot for ten years and has been active in organizing community projects such as protests and charity drives, told Arutz-7, "Can a country really tolerate rockets falling on a city, just an hour from Tel Aviv? ... What we would like to see are signs all over the country, just like with the struggles for Gush Katif and the Golan, saying, 'Jerusalem with Sderot,' 'Givatayim with Sderot,' and the like. In addition, it would be good to have delegations from different cities come and visit, as some did from Ofrah and Beit El."