Negev Residents Demand: Rocket Shelters in Every House

Hundreds of Israelis living under the threat of rockets descend upon the gov't complex in Jerusalem; Israel is attacked at same time by 5 rockets.

Hillel Fendel,

Hundreds of Israelis living under the threat of rockets rallied outside the government complex in Jerusalem, demanding rocket shelters in every home.  At the same time, Israel was attacked with five Kassam rockets. The rockets landed in the western Negev city of Sderot, sending three people to the hospital to be treated for shock.

One rocket landed in the yard of a private home, adjacent to a children's nursery which was empty at the time.

Olmert Backtracks
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said just two months ago that Israel would not "reinforce ourselves to death," now says that within a week, "all the plans to provide reinforcement protection to the residents living under rocket threats will be approved."

An hour later, hundreds of residents from Sderot and other Western Negev areas given to 24-hour-a-day Kassam rocket threats descended upon the government complex and demanded more reinforcement. Contrary to last week's anti-Kassam protests, the message emanating from the rallies was, "We want more protection!"

Different Messages with Common Denominator
At last week's protests in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in which some protestors briefly blocked main highways, the demand was to remove the threat of Kassam rockets.  Even Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, considered among the moderate voices in the city, said at the time that if he were Defense Minister, "I would kidnap [Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh], I would kidnap or kill the other leaders, I would bomb neighborhoods, etc." 

He added that if even then the Kassams continue, Israel should do what it did in Lebanon in 2006: "We wiped out a whole neighborhood, the Dachya, including tall buildings, sometimes with people in it, and - what can you do? It worked! We have had nearly two years of quiet from Lebanon since then."

Yishai Friedman, spokesman for the Sderot Security Task Force headed by Alon Davidi, said, "The kibbutzim in the area joined up with our protest today, and their voice is definitely more one of 'we want protection now.'  We ourselves do not feel that that is the solution, but we agree that if the government is not going to war - as it now appears - then the residents here need some kind of protection."

Davidi himself said, "There are different voices, but the common denominator is much stronger than anything: We all want 'protection and security.' We finally see that even Labor Party leaders, such as Alon Shuster and other Regional Council heads, are coming down to protest against the government - I don't remember when this ever happened before!  People here are demanding security and calling on Olmert to resign!"

Protecting Homes in 3-Mile Radius
Prime Minister Olmert, as he opened this morning's Cabinet meeting, said the government plans to reinforce the 8,000 residential homes that are within a 4.5-kilometer (approx. 3-mile) radius from Gaza. Some 350 million shekels have been allocated for the purpose. Shmulik Rifman, head of the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, said that double that amount is necessary.

Two months ago, Olmert explained, "We have no intention, ability or justification to reinforce [the entire area].  It would mean all of the resources would be designated for reinforcement.  We must prepare in advance for extreme situations in which our ability to provide reinforcement will be limited... When Jerusalem neighborhoods were bombarded, I [then the Mayor of Jerusalem - ed.] felt that we need not go overboard in reinforcing - and some of those places now regret that they received this protection."

On Sunday, Olmert said, "We have done much and invested hundreds of millions of shekels for the protection of schools and public buildings. Today, we will discuss the reinforcement of homes as well. This is a joint initiative of the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister's Bureau... We have to determine priorities in allocating the resources, in accordance with the proximity of the homes to the areas of shooting and danger."

"A war is being waged in the south," Olmert said, "almost every day.  The terror leaders are definitely part of the war, and we will not slacken in this area, and we will continue to fight until the disappearance of the threat to stop life in the south.  There are various means that we are employing, including sanctions and a stop to the supply of materials that serve the terror organizations."





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