Sderot Will Resume Protests Next Week; Kassams Continue

Following yesterday's closure of the city's entrances, and last night's self-imposed electricity black-out, life in Sderot is returning to normal. Three more Kassams were fired since last night.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:04

Sderot residents shut out their lights all over the city at 9 PM last night, in protest of the government's continued failure to provide them with security from the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks. The darkness was to continue for two hours.

However, at approximately 10:30, word came of the Israel Air Force strike on a terrorist's vehicle, with the resultant killing of three Arab civilians. Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal therefore ordered the lights turned back on, because of what he called the "security sensitivity" of the situation.

Near-Normalcy
Though the Kassams have not stopped, and Fatah terrorists are in fact threatening to step up their attacks, life in Sderot has returned to near-normal. The hunger-strikers stopped their protest fast on Monday night, city entrances are not blocked, and elementary schools are open once again. The city protest planners, however, have scheduled a mass three-day march from Sderot to Jerusalem beginning next Sunday. It will culminate with a massive demonstration outside the government complex; afterwards, a fixed protest vigil will be established in a tent at the site.

Yesterday, dozens of Sderot residents blocked the three entrances to their city for several hours, allowing almost no one in or out. Exceptions were made for food deliveries, emergency vehicles, and others such as two busloads of students on their way to a day-trip.

"The residents feel," said Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal during a visit on Monday 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."

Many of the residents called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to follow Katzav's example and come for a visit as well. "If he can send all his top officials to come, then he can come too - if only to give us that support," said Lt.-Col. (ret.) Chaim Kuznitz.

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 week-long closing of schools and kindergartens throughout the city; the perpetual lack of certainty as to where and when a rocket will fall; and more.

Peres: "Kassams, Shmassams"
Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres caused a stir Monday evening 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? We have to tell the Palestinians that Kassams, Shmassams, we're staying." He said that several measures must be taken to stop the rockets, but did not elaborate.

In response, Mayor Moyal said that Peres should be fired, and should stay away from Sderot. 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."

Mechi Fendel, a mother of six who has lived in Sderot for twelve 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."

Is There a Solution?
On Tuesday evening, speaking at the 35th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that though there is no definitive solution to the Kassam problem, Israel would take measures harsher than any taken in the past against Palestinian Authority attackers: "No one has immunity, no matter what he does, and no matter with what group he's associated."

Some politicians and military experts feel that a solution to the Kassam problem does exist, in the form of a massive military operation in Gaza:
* Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, for instance, has suggested turning Beit Hanoun - a northern Gaza neighborhood from which many of the Kassams are fired - into a ghost town.
* MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud), a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Israel's entry into Gaza is inevitable.
* MK Matan Vilnai (Labor), a former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, agreed, adding that there is no reason that Abu Mazen should be able to sleep soundly at night while Kassams are being fired into Israel.
* MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) has called for the electricity in Gaza to be taken out.

Fatah leader Abu Mazen called for an end to Kassams yesterday, but within hours, following the Israeli missile attack that killed three Arab civilians in Gaza, Fatah terrorists were warning of a sharp retaliation and resumption of Kassam rockets.




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