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Arutz Sheva Exclusive: A Visit to Battle Scarred Southern Israel

Israel National Radio's own Walter Bingham traveled to Israel's south to see the rocket scarred area and meet with residents.
By Ben Bresky & Walter Bingham
First Publish: 3/20/2012, 2:13 AM

Walter Bingham spcil
Walter Bingham spcil
INR photo
Walter Bingham, the host of Walter's World on Israel National Radio participated in a special trip for journalists last week to Israel's south. The trip took place during the rocket attacks, which have subsided this week but not entirely stopped. Interviews were conducted with residents and municipality heads. The folloiwng is Walter's report from the field.

This is a special report from life in the cities and villages near the terrorist infested Gaza Strip, during the recent escalation of rocket attacks, or rather, the continuing war against our civilian population. 

To download the full Walter's World show including interviews with residents, click here.

The effectiveness of Israel's intelligence services was once again displayed this month, when the head of the Popular Resistance Committees in  Gaza, Zuhair Qaisi was targeted from the air and killed in his car. The Gaza terrorists launched a greater barrage of rockets at southern Israel’s population centers. [Editor's note, in the weeks preceeding the Zuhair Qaisi incident, rocket attacks had increased.]

The terrorists will surely be disappointed, - although it did cause much trauma, no Israelis were killed. One million residents in the area between the cities of Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, and Ashkelon and beyond, had very little sleep, as some 200 rockets from Gaza were directed at them. Schools and kindergardens were closed and as a consequence, a considerable number of the workforce had to stay home, that is to 
say in their "safe rooms" or bomb shelters.

It was the first major outbreak since Operation Cast Lead which took place from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009 during which Israeli forces conducted a ground operation in Gaza. This time, Israel exercised great restraint.

I feel that only the complete destruction of every building connected with the terrorist organizations operating from Gaza, including the elimination of all known terrorists, will ensure that the civilian population of Gaza are able to speak their mind without fear of punishment or murder and act according to their own free will.  

So I say to Defense Minister Ehud Barak that I am almost certain that only a decisive operation would achieve the results that a million of our brothers and sisters in the south of Israel would accepts as the required results, and not the hit-and-run action that past history has shown as Barak’s favored modus operandi.


On the day that Egypt brokered a cease fire, fragile as ever and already broken, I travelled to the area with a group of journalists from all over the world, to hear from the people on the ground exactly what happened and how they feel. 
On the day that Egypt brokered a cease fire, fragile as ever and already broken, I travelled to the area with a group of journalists from all over the world, to hear from the people on the ground exactly what happened and how they feel. At the emergency headquarters of the Ashdod municipality, two floors below ground, we heard in translation from Arieh Yitach, a retired army colonel, now the head of 
security for the Ashdod Municipality.                                                         
 
We visited the impact site together with the acting Mayor of Ashdod. He was asked whether or not the heads of the affected municipalities express dissatisfaction about the handling of the affair whne they met with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. The acting mayor replied that while the citizens of Ashdod can withstand the current situation, there is also a point at which they will not be able to go on.                                                                                  

Several miles further south in Ashkelon we heard from Roni Mahatzri, the mayor since 1991. We also visited a private home in Ashkelon, where a large family of English speaking immigrants related their feelings. 

The last location we visited was Kibbutz Nir Oz, four kilometers from the Gaza border, where I stood in the two spots where the most recent rockets exploded. One spot was just outside a kindergarden. The rocket hit just an hour before the children arrived in the morning. One of my journalistic colleagues asked this rather strange question: Will you live here for the next 20 or 30 years with this kind of abuse? Is that enough to keep you want to live here?
 
The one thought that was repeated by almost all the residents of the rocket plagued areas was that this is just how life is here. They like it here despite everything, and they won’t move away. Their hope is for peace. They did however not want to be drawn into how that peace should be achieved.

Walter Bingham travels all over Israel and the international Jewish world to bring you in-depth reports in his exciting magazine style program. Topics range from cultural and entertainment events and social problems to major political interviews and statements recorded live as they happen. He holds up a mirror at Jewish life and paints pictures in sound. His many famous guests have included Alan Dershowitz, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Charles Krauthammer, John Bolton, German film star Iris Berben, Jewish community heads of many countries, singing and entertainment stars Dudu Fisher, Yaffa Yarkoni, Theodor Bikel, David D'Or as well as many politicians, political commentators and academics. Walter's World broadcast airs live every Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Israel time on Israel National Radio.

For the Walter's World archive page including this program in its entirety, click here.