Rocket Roulette Continues

Sderot residents are growing increasingly frustrated with escalating rocket attacks from Gaza as the official end of the 'ceasefire' approaches.

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 4:50 PM

Gaza terrorists continuing their attacks
Gaza terrorists continuing their attacks
Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Gaza terrorists launched a fifth rocket attack on the western Negev at approximately 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon despite targeted air strikes by Israel Air Force pilots that have been ongoing since Wednesday. Two Kassam rockets exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council district. A mortar shell also landed in the Gaza Belt region.

As they had a day earlier, terrorists launched their first attack of the day just as children were setting out for school and adults were preparing to leave for work. A second attack came at about 11:00 a.m., with the third launch picked up by the Color Red incoming alert system shortly after 1:00 p.m. The fourth attack was aimed at the Gaza Belt region at around 3:00 p.m.

One Gaza Belt community member approached by Israel National News for a comment on the situation asked not only not to be identified, but also requested that her community not be identifed as well. She explained that media coverage gives the terrorists a better strategic understanding of where their rockets land, thereby allowing them to adjust their aim for the next round. "Talking about the situation isn't going to change it," she said.

By late afternoon, eleven Kassam rockets had been fired at various targets ranging from the immediate Gaza Belt region to further out into the western Negev. At least one of the rockets reached slightly south of the port city of Ashkelon.  Five mortar shells were also fired at the western Negev overnight. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Living in Sderot feels like living in a separate state within a state.

Sderot residents held a news conference at midday Thursday to express their frustration with the situation. Batya Katar, head of the Sderot Parents' Association and Danny Dahan, head of the city's Small Business Association, told reporters the atmosphere was returning to that of "a war zone."

For Dahan, it has also meant having to schlep to the Ashkelon junction to receive goods for his store; most suppliers, he said, won't deliver their merchandise to Sderot anymore. "Living in Sderot feels like living in a separate state within a state," he said. "The rocket fire has been going on for eight years now and still nothing is being done to stop it for the long term. That is the harsh reality."

Einav Silverman of the Sderot Media Center, which helped organize the news conference, noted that in the past month alone, more than 360 missiles have been fired at southern Israel -- and this, during what was supposedly still a "ceasefire" period. "It really does not feel anything like a ceasefire, having to wake up at 4:00 a.m. with the Color Red siren going off," she said. "This morning it was 6:30 a.m. Last night was one of the worst attacks we have had since the 'ceasefire' began [on June 19]." 

On Wednesday, 22 missiles exploded in southern Israel, causing widespread damage and injuring several people as well. One of the rockets exploded in the parking lot of a supermarket in Sderot. Three people suffered shrapnel wounds and seven others were treated for severe traumatic shock.

In retaliation, IAF pilots flew out on raids late Wednesday night to destroy an ammunition warehouse in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, and a rocket factory in the town of Khan Younis, located in the southern part of the region. No terrorists were wounded in either strike, although extensive damage was reported. At least one terrorist was reported killed in an air strike carried out earlier in the day.

The crossings into Gaza have remained closed since Tuesday, when Defense Minister Ehud Olmert ordered them sealed in response to the escalation in rocket fire emanating from the region.

"Foreign journalists are asking us all the time if we think shutting down the checkpoints is helpful," said Silverman. "During the 'ceasefire' rocket production did not cease and hundreds of terrorist tunnels were dug in Gaza -- something on the order of 600 or so. There is a certain strategy by Hamas that is not being challenged by our government in a sufficient way," she said. "I am not a military commander or an expert in any way, but even I can see that something needs to be done to stop them from firing these rockets.  Shutting down the crossings has not helped that much." 

Silverman added that since the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, terrorists have fired hundreds of rockets at Sderot and other western Negev communities during each "ceasefire" -- and there have been two. "When Israel gave away Gaza it was an act of goodwill to bring peace to the region, but instead, the number of attacks increased. So I don't know how wise it is to give up land to an organization that seeks the destruction of Israel," she said.

The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization said in a statement Wednesday morning that it "would not allow the 'truce' to be renewed" when it officially expires on Friday "due to the constant Israeli aggression, the closing of crossings and the intensification of the blockade."