Thursday 26 April 2018

Israelis near Gaza border living with fear of daily rocket attacks


Shona Murray, Sderot, Gaza border

As the latest Israel and Hamas truce enters its early hours, there is little hope it will achieve anything except a minor respite from the fear of death.

Over the last month, over 3,400 qassam rockets and hundreds of rounds of mortar fire left Gaza for the Southern Israeli towns of Eshkol, Ashkelon and Sderot - 70 since the end of the truce on Friday. The rockets, which are fired indiscriminately, have little impact in terms of civilian deaths and casualties, or long-term damage to civilian objects. Last Friday, within seconds of the last 72 hour truce expiring, Hamas fired rockets into these towns, resulting in two civilians suffering minor casualties.

Qassam rockets are deemed almost inconsequential when compared with the artillery, F16s and other firepower of the Israeli Defence Force.

They are however, terrifying and disabling for the communities that live under constant fire.

The iron dome missile defence system - possibly the only triumphant party in this conflict - has been successful in intercepting the longer range versions of Hamas rockets; it is not able to destroy bulkier short range missiles like mortars. Israelis also have a competent early warning system - 'Tzeva' Adom' in Hebrew, or 'The Red Colour' in English - which alerts civilians close to the border, of imminent rocket fire.

The Red Alert app for smart phones which signals - to the second - when a rocket is air-bound and pinpoints with remarkable accuracy which Israeli city it is falling on - is a highly reliable source of information for residents and families who can be informed of such events.

In Gaza, the sound of a Qassam rocket leaving the strip is corroborated seconds later by a loud alert on one's phone; it is an invaluable tool for confirming claims about rockets fired from other sources.

Oren Elyassie (27) from Sderot says hiding from rockets in nearby shelters is her 'norm'.

"Even now we should expect Tzeva' Adom - a red alert, a warning that rockets are falling. You know that the only reason that there are less deaths in Sderot and Ashkelon, is that we are always ready.

"We get out of the shower, we get out of bed, we leave our schools and we take our babies, and we leave our homes and we go to safe areas. They don't do this in Gaza.

"It's so scary that any moment something will happen, if it wasn't for our great IDF and government protecting us, then I can't imagine what would happen," she said.

People are irked by the level of worldwide attention that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza receives; it appears to the denizens of Sderot that nobody bothers to consider the impact of rocket attacks.

"Unlike in Gaza, I can't show you a picture of my dead sister, or rivers of blood on the street, but that doesn't mean we are not suffering," says Oren

"I was taking a shower today and twice I had to take a towel and head to the shelter."

She is one of the many young activists in Sderot who are trying to galvanise support for their 'side of the story'.

She says that Gazans "say they want peace", but do little to prove this by voting in Hamas as their government.

"I'm angry because they say they want to live in peace, but within seconds after the ceasefire they sent rockets in here, to my home, to try to kill me.

"I do feel sorry for them, but they don't do anything to make peace themselves," she added.

Irish Independent

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