An eerie silence envelopes Sderot's streets. A once bustling metropolitan hub, the city now resembles a war zone. More than 370 rockets have been fired into Israel's southern city of Sderot since last Saturday. 72 of the rockets directly hit houses and buildings and the barrage does not cease. On the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah in the early hours of the morning, the city of Sderot, the pumping heart of the Gaza envelope, was infiltrated by Hamas Terrorists. The streets quickly turned red with blood as innocent civilians were massacred in their homes, cars and in the streets. Women and children were amongst the butchered in this surprise, unprovoked attack.

Sderot has a population of almost 37,000 and is located nearby Gaza, with the closest point being 840 meters away. So close that inhabitants only have fifteen to thirty seconds to run to shelter once an air raid siren wails before the rocket hits.

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Rafi Abecassis sits in the remains of his bedroom
Rafi Abecassis sits in the remains of his bedroomRom Barnea

Within 72 hours of the outbreak of hostilities, the Israel Defense Forces evacuated more than 13,000 residents of the 25 agricultural communities within four kilometers (2.5 miles) of the Strip, many of them devastated by massacres. Yesterday, the municipality was still coordinating the evacuation of remaining residents of this Israeli city, many left with nothing but the clothes on their backs ready to relocate them to state-sponsored lodgings away from the front lines. Today around 7000 inhabitants remain in Sderot, many of them, not able to relocate for various reasons.

Among those who have remained in the city, despite the Israel Defense Forces’ imminent expected Gaza ground incursion, are also residents who see their continued presence as a crucial reminder of what Israel must achieve. They truly hope that the defense minister, and national security council heads’ promises to eradicate Hamas will be kept.

The mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi and his team work tirelessly around the clock to save what is left of this beautiful city. “We, the residents here, will not give up and we won’t let our government and our army stop in the middle. Even if there is pressure from the world, we must root out evil and Hamas must be destroyed once and for all" said Davidi.

Sderot Resilience Center
Sderot Resilience CenterSderot Municipality

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"Hamas murdered over 50 people in Sderot on October 7 and are much worse than ISIS. they must be eradicated,” Davidi said. “Over the years, Sderot has become a symbol of resiliency and strength, despite living under constant threat, but we could never have imagined the level of imminent threat we are now facing. Now more than ever, we need support to help our residents in their greatest time of need in recent history. Our teams of emergency and medical responders, social workers and volunteers are on the front lines to provide support for the city, but are stretched out capacity, and we are in desperate need of immediate support”.

Ayelet Shmuel, a resident of Ashkelon who worked with traumatized citizens in Sderot, explained that she and her family are not evacuating to relatively safer areas of the country.

“There are a lot of people who feel like me, who say you’re not going to get me to leave my home, enough is enough,” Shmuel said.

“Where are we going to go? I’m going to go to Tel Aviv? They’re going to reach there as well,” she said of Hamas’s rockets, which can travel as far as northern Israel.

"Children here are so traumatized that their parents literally do not know how to console them. Many inhabitants have no home to go back to, no schools...even the police station was destroyed," Ayelet explains. "The world needs to embrace and help this city and it's people rebuild their lives".“Once, if you went into your bomb shelter, you’d think you’d be okay,” Shmuel said. “But now you have to be worried about a terrorist with a machine gun. Bomb shelters are not built for that. The terrorists broke in and slaughtered the people inside” she said.

This week, the municipality of Sderot launched an official emergency campaign to raise funds for continued SOS assistance, safety and recovery of the city. "We call on our brothers and sisters around the world to open your hearts and donate to help us rebuild Sderot and take care of it's people. These inhabitants were the front line of Israel's South. Salute them today! We will come out strong.", Davidi exclaims.

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Mangled automobiles line the war-torn streets of Sderot
Mangled automobiles line the war-torn streets of SderotPeter Levin