Three thousand homes stand empty in what was once a vibrant western Negev city of almost 20,000 souls but which for the past seven years has been transformed into a city under siege.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, confirming a figure often quoted bitterly by Sderot residents who still remain despite the danger, called on the government Monday to allow the IDF to "change the rules of the game" when responding to terrorist attacks from Gaza.
If Sderot residents have to leave their homes or run for cover to dodge missile attacks, Gaza residents should have to do the same, Dichter said.
Located one kilometer away from northern Gaza, Sderot has been at the mercy of ceaseless mortar and Kassam rocket attacks fired by Palestinian Authority terrorists of all stripes since the so-called Aqsa Intifada began in September, 2000. PLO and Hamas terrorists launch their missiles from small, portable setups that can quickly be erected and broken down and are often used to fire rockets from civilian yards and between homes in nearby Beit Hanoun.
Earlier this week Yuval Diskin, head of the General Security Service (Shin Bet) told reporters that 1,000 Gaza terrorists were killed by Israeli forces over the past year. He added, however, that there are still 20,000 more terrorists left in the PA territory.
According to the Olmert government's policy, Gaza is to become part of any negotiated PA state, together with large areas of Judea and Samaria. Although the American Roadmap plan is being used as a basis for final status talks, the PA has yet to fulfill Step One in the process – completely cease terror attacks on Israeli citizens emanating from its territories.