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Kassams Hit Sderot Before and During Foreign VIPs' Visit

The city of Sderot was a busy place on Thursday with its daily morning rocket attack followed by a visit from Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni and some 70 foreign diplomats.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 11/24/2006, 8:26 AM / Last Update: 11/23/2006, 7:51 PM

Defense Minister Amir Peretz was late to work Thursday morning after having to duck a Kassam rocket attack near his house just hours before the foreign diplomats visited the city.

He was getting into his car to leave for Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the “Color Red” missile alert system sounded its warning. Peretz hurried to take cover in his garage, where he waited until it was safe to go back on the streets.

A Channel 10 television crew was present at the time. “We will get through this,” he told them. “Sderot will be a city of peace.”

Two Kassams were launched in that first attack of the day from northern Gaza. One exploded near a large public building and the other landed near the entrance to a kibbutz.

Peretz left Sderot with his entourage and headed to the capital after it was clear that the attack was over.

VIP Visitors Tour the Sderot Hot Spots
A short time later, Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni arrived in the city to conduct a tour of the area for some 70 foreign diplomats. The trip was intended to show the VIPs what life is like for the Israelis who live under the constant barrage of Kassam rocket attacks.

The first stop was a “show and tell” visit at the police station, where they were able to examine unexploded Kassam duds that were collected by security personnel.

The diplomats were then introduced to children at a local elementary school. The fourth grade students were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with the VIPs.

The VIPs were also taken on a brief visit to an area of town where the diplomats were able to see how close Beit Hanoun, a terrorist hotbed in Gaza, is located to the rocket-battered Jewish community. The delegation was brought there despite the recommendation of Mayor Eli Moyal to avoid the area due to security concerns.

While visiting the observation point, the foreign minister explained to the visiting dignitaries that the more primitive the rocket, the more difficult it is for the alert system to detect it. This has resulted in numerous instances in which residents are given no forewarning of an impending attack, thus endangering their lives even more.

Within 20 minutes after the group left the observation point, two Kassam attacks did indeed strike the area. By that time, the diplomats were already at the city’s community center and barely even heard the alert sound its warning.

At least one dignitary, however, got the point. In an interview with Army Radio after the tour, Robert Rydberg, the Swedish ambassador to Israel, commented, “Now we understand much better what the residents are going through.”