Sderot Waits for Annapolis

The implications of Annapolis have been felt.

Noam Bedein

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At a time when people think that nothing will come of the planned summit in Annapolis, in Sderot and the Jewish communities of the western Negev, the implications of Annapolis have already been felt. Since November 1, according to the IDF spokesman, 110 Kassam rockets and mortars have been launched from Gaza towards Sderot and the western
Thousands of Katyusha rockets are ready to be launched.

180,000 Israelis - including residents of Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, and over 20 kibbutzim and moshavim - now live under the daily bombardment of missiles fired from Gaza. Meanwhile, Egypt has facilitated the flow of hundreds of thousands of weapons and ammunition into Gaza since Israel's Disengagement in August 2005. Hamas has been allowed to build a well-trained, organized army, which numbers 13,000 fighters, many having had special training in Iran.

At the same time, thousands of Katyusha rockets are ready to be launched towards Israel. Recent video footage shows that Gaza terror cells launch mortar shells from UNRWA schools, knowing the sensitivity that Israel has about killing civilians. A senior IDF intelligence officer observes that "Palestinian terror organizations continue to abuse the civilian population in Gaza by launching attacks against Israel from their midst." They don't think twice about firing Kassam rockets near crowded public areas, even though "they're fully aware that they're endangering innocent civilians," said the officer.

So, with the IDF trying to avoid civilian casualties, a senior Israeli air force commander has confirmed that the IDF has hit only three percent of the rocket launchers. The IDF is not even trying to kill or capture the Gaza terror leaders who give the orders to shell and terrorize Israel.

The Sderot Media Center asked a senior IDF officer why the army does not go after the Gaza terror leaders, who operate in the open, giving news interviews around the clock. The officer provided a one word answer: "Annapolis." So long as Israel conducts negotiations, the IDF will not enter Gaza - even to kill off terror leaders, as it did in Spring 2004 when Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantissi were targeted.

This non-response policy represents a continuing adherence to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's order to Israel, exactly one year ago, not to retaliate in Gaza.

Meanwhile, an irony not lost on the residents of Sderot and the western Negev is that the planned Annapolis summit is slated for the 26th and 27th of November, the same date that launched the American-brokered cease fire between Gaza and Israel that lasted until the 15th of May. During that time, more than 300 Gazan missiles were launched against Israel. The American ambassador to Israel praised that ceasefire, however, noting that no Israelis were killed. It would be instructive to know how the USA would react if Buffalo or El Paso were under "fatality-free" missile fire.

"Physical damage you are able to see. The scar in the heart - that's what you cannot see." Osnat Ben-Haim told me that on the day her house was struck in a direct hit. She described how her six-year-old son was having a sandwich in the kitchen only two
So long as Israel conducts negotiations, the IDF will not enter Gaza.
minutes before a Kassam exploded there. The boy was not killed, but he has been traumatized.

Who would believe that, in the State of Israel as it marks 60 years, fathers would need to whisper the Kiddush, the Sabbath blessing over wine, so they'll be able to hear the siren go off and thus be able to flee the house in 15 seconds. So much for being "a free people in our own country," as our national anthem proclaims.

34 years ago this week, Israel's first prime minister and pioneer of the Negev, David Ben-Gurion, passed away. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert drove through the Negev to Ben-Gurion's grave, and didn't think to drop by the five communities in the Negev that had been shelled the night before, leaving a city block of cars aflame in Sderot. To see Israel unwilling to act in self-defense, Ben-Gurion would turn over in his grave.

How does it feel to experience 2,000 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza towards one's new home in Sderot? Getting used to the routine of waking up with a collective alarm clock? Expecting the first one to land some time during the morning - either on the way to college, on the way to the bank, on the way to the market - always looking out for a nearby shelter?

The town is totally dependent on an electrical alert system that (usually) allows the residents 15 seconds to run for their lives. It was rendered totally helpless when a Kassam rocket knocked out the town's electricity and the missiles began to strike without any warning whatsoever. Shelters are now scattered all over Sderot, in the public area and at bus stops, market places, libraries, soccer fields, schools, kindergartens and playgrounds.

I wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I just heard the siren. Breathing softly while the heart keeps on pounding, counting down quietly in my mind, listening to the chilling silence, waiting to hear the whistle and, a few seconds later, the explosion of the rocket. I listen for the intensity of the explosion to determine if it fell in the town or outside of it.

Every time you hear a whistle, you are sure that a rocket is coming right at you.

In the past weeks, we have witnessed a rocket strike near by a special education school, while children were in daycare. A rocket landed in an elderly man's back yard. We watched as he was evacuated, mumbling and sobbing. A rocket slammed into a neighborhood where residents have no shelter to run to. A rocket exploded near a woman. She desperately cried out: "This is not a life!"
I wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I just heard the siren.

The Shushan family has been sleeping together in their living room for the past year with their five children, because they don't have enough time to run down the stairs to the shelter.

In the words of MK Shai Hermesh, Kfar Gaza, September 2007: "It's a matter of time until a missile scores a direct hit on a classroom or family - and that's going to light the whole entire fire in the Middle East."

Yes, after Annapolis, the Israeli army will enter Gaza again. The international media will film the bodies of dead Arab mothers and children who were used as human shields by Arab terrorists. Condoleezza Rice and Donna Olmert will ask that we shed tears over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But the real humanitarian crisis pervades among the Jews of the Negev. No, this is not a life. This is not a life worthy of the Jewish State.

The chief commander of the Israeli air force has said, "Our real power and strength is our moral strength." But while Rice briefs the media that the Palestinians want their dignity, that is precisely what has been robbed from the Jewish communities of the Western Negev.