Little joy in Southern Israel over the Gaza cease-fire

SDEROT, In this southern Israeli town, which has lived for nearly 13 years under the constant threat of rocket attacks from Gaza, there is little joy over a new cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers: Schools remain closed, traffic is sparse and hope is hard to find.

The working-class residents of Sderot have seen previous lulls in violence quickly unravel. This time around, they are weary of new promises of calm, and many say the military should have continued its offensive in Gaza until Hamas was decisively beaten.

“This quiet is hard to swallow and it doesn’t do us any good,” said Ortal Buchbut, 31. “We know that at some point it will end and things will go back to being what they were, or worse.”

Israel launched its campaign on Nov. 14 in a bid to end months of renewed rocket fire out of Gaza, carrying out hundreds of strikes. During the eight days of fighting, some 1,500 rockets were launched at Israel, targeting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other major cities for the first time.

For Sderot, though, it was nothing new. More than any other Israeli town or city, Sderot has been pounded mercilessly by Gaza militants, making life here nearly unbearable.

Less than a mile (2 kilometers) away from Gaza, Sderot has been a favorite target of Gaza militants. Eight residents have been killed since rocket fire began with a Palestinian uprising in 2000, hundreds have been wounded and nearly everyone traumatized by the frequent wail of sirens and explosions.

Despite fortifications that have secured schools and homes in recent years, keeping casualty figures down, the threat has remained.

Experts warn of long-lasting psychological damage inflicted on Sderot’s 24,000 residents, particularly children, who suffer from exceptionally high rates of anxiety and bed-wetting compared to other Israeli children, according to psychologists who have researched the phenomenon.

On Thursday, residents gingerly emerged from their homes to take in some fresh air and do some shopping, even though most stores remained shuttered. There was little movement around the town’s main traffic circle, which also serves as a memorial to those slain by rocket attacks over the years.

Those who ventured out expressed frustration with the cease-fire, saying Israel’s offensive ended too quickly and that they were willing to absorb more abuse in return for a chance for quiet, once and for all.

“Hamas needs to be eliminated, completely. Nothing else will work,” said Yisrael Haziza, 68, sitting outside a mostly empty convenience store.

An acquaintance passed by, offering a more subtle view.

“We have no more energy, maybe now we’ll get a breather, God willing,” said Florie Vanunu, a middle-aged women who wouldn’t disclose her age.

She said carrying out the ground operation Israel was threatening could have cost the lives of soldiers. But she had no illusions that her troubles were over either.

“We don’t trust the Arabs for a second,” she said.

Speaking Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that some Israelis were disappointed.

“I know that there are citizens who expected an even sharper response,” he said, after meeting police commanders. “This is the right thing to do for the state of Israel at this time but we are also prepared for the possibility that the cease-fire will not be upheld, and we will know how to act if need be.”

In Ashkelon, a coastal city of 120,000 further to the north, life was returning to normal more quickly. With schools still out, the malls were filled with children watching a clown show and playing with balloons. People were visibly jittery though when one popped loudly.

“We’re not ready for that yet,” a waitress said with a smile.

Businesses reopened but suffered from shortages of supplies and staffers who had fled further north during the fighting, in which 125 rockets were fired toward the city.

Despite a palpable sense of relief, residents were still angry about how the fighting ended — with Hamas still standing and claiming victory. The group held mass celebrations in Gaza Thursday.

“I don’t understand how they can attack and kill our people and nobody cares, but we can’t attack them,” said Uri Nuriel, a 57-year-old who works at a jewelry store and thought Israel acted too soft in the offensive. “If you come after me, I’m going to come after you. “In the Middle East you have to behave like the Middle East, not Switzerland. Something has to change here. This is an impossible situation. Any other country in the world would have just wiped them out.”

Yaniv Tzur, 24, said he was pleased to be reopening his frozen yogurt shop but would have preferred to wait it out longer in order to deliver a more devastating blow to Hamas.

“This thing will last six months, maybe eight months, a year tops,” he said. “We have to finish off Gaza so they can’t threaten us ever again. If we are already suffering, then we should go all the way. When you start something you should finish it, or else don’t do it at all.”

Life in the desert city of Beersheba was back to its usual humdrum beat, minus the thousands of university students usually seen biking on the main roads. Despite the cease-fire, classes remained canceled and many students had evacuated the city. Restaurants were filling up once again, after more than 160 rockets were fired at the city of 200,000 over the past week.

At the Soroka Medical Center, the 55 premature newborn babies that were moved from the infant ICU ward during the fighting still remained in their temporary location in a sheltered wing of the hospital.

Sara Bar, 60, a retired supervisor of the hospital’s emergency room, paged through her phone’s Facebook news feed and pointed out caricatures and commentary goading Netanyahu for ending the hostilities early.

“We’re in a dilemma. If we had continued, soldiers would have been killed,” she said. “But for our own sense of quiet, the only way to prove to (Hamas Prime Minister Ismail) Haniyeh that we will beat him is to go in.”

 

Associated Press

  • 5thDrawer

    The idiocy affects both ‘sides’.

  • 5thDrawer

    The idiocy affects both ‘sides’.

  • john jones

    Well, thats what you deserve to live under when you steal land that does not belong to you. The Palestinians should never have to suffer for the actions of Hitler. Jews, Muslims and Christians were living in that land together with no issues prior to 1948. There was no need for the Zionists to steal the land and create their own country and racist rules. The Arab countries would never have gone to war in 1948 had the Palestinians not been removed from their land and homes. The Zionists will continue to pay for their actions and will never live in peace until all Palestinian refugees return to their land and homes and the Zionist state is wiped off the map as Ahmadinejad stated (He never mentioned by force, which people seem to ignore).

    • eblashko

      I see you’ve invented a very interesting history for yourself. Zionism began in 1882 with the founding of Rishon LeZion, not in 1948. All land acquired by Zionists until 1948 was bought perfectly legally from the original landowners by the JNF with deeds to prove it. The first proposal for partition, the Peel commission, which was accepted by Jews but rejected by Arabs, was proposed as early as 1936, three years before World War 2 began. No Palestinians were removed from their homes until AFTER the war of independence started.

      And even if all of that weren’t historical fact, the people who live today in southern Israel aren’t the people who you think “stole” the land. They are their children am grandchildren and great grandchildren. Or, more probably in the case of Sderot, they, like me, are mostly descended from Jews who were expelled from Arab lands after the state of Israel was founded.

      • john jones

        No one is talking about land legally purchased. Everyone knows this occured, that is why i said Muslims, Jews and Christians were living together. That was not the land that was stolen.

        Palestinians were being removed from their homes BEFORE the 1948 war by Zionist terrorist groups such as the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi (which infact carried out the first terrorist bombing in the holy land). This is why the 1948 war started. The Zionists decided to create the state of Israel on stolen land and the rest of the world allowed them as compensation for Hitler’s actions.

        Had the Zionists not created the illegal and illegitimate state of Israel, you would not have been expelled from the Arab lands. So your predicament occured because of the actions of the Zionist terrorist groups.

        It will only be a matter of time before all Palestinian refugees will return back to their lands and homes that they were forced from in the years up to the 1948 war. Unfortunately for the Jews living on these lands they will be made to leave due to the actions of the Zionist terrorist groups.

    • MeYosemite

      I would hate to say that some chunk of that land was sold by our older Lebanese generation Sursocks and others under the Turkish time, and that had reseeded the land. Below is an extract from Wikipedia. On the other hand the intention behind the settlers is questionable.

      “In addition to owning land in Lebanon, the Sursock family owned more than 60,000 acres (240 km²) in the Vale of Esdraelon, the Jezreel Valley, in Palestine. [4] It is believed that the Sursock family sold the land in Palestine for nearly three quarters of a million pound to the Jewish National Fund in 1906.[5] The family evicted the Arab tenants of the villages to allow the Jewish settlers to move in.[6]”

  • john jones

    Well, thats what you deserve to live under when you steal land that does not belong to you. The Palestinians should never have to suffer for the actions of Hitler. Jews, Muslims and Christians were living in that land together with no issues prior to 1948. There was no need for the Zionists to steal the land and create their own country and racist rules. The Arab countries would never have gone to war in 1948 had the Palestinians not been removed from their land and homes. The Zionists will continue to pay for their actions and will never live in peace until all Palestinian refugees return to their land and homes and the Zionist state is wiped off the map as Ahmadinejad stated (He never mentioned by force, which people seem to ignore).

    • eblashko

      I see you’ve invented a very interesting history for yourself. Zionism began in 1882 with the founding of Rishon LeZion, not in 1948. All land acquired by Zionists until 1948 was bought perfectly legally from the original landowners by the JNF with deeds to prove it. The first proposal for partition, the Peel commission, which was accepted by Jews but rejected by Arabs, was proposed as early as 1936, three years before World War 2 began. No Palestinians were removed from their homes until AFTER the war of independence started.

      And even if all of that weren’t historical fact, the people who live today in southern Israel aren’t the people who you think “stole” the land. They are their children am grandchildren and great grandchildren. Or, more probably in the case of Sderot, they, like me, are mostly descended from Jews who were expelled from Arab lands after the state of Israel was founded.

      • john jones

        No one is talking about land legally purchased. Everyone knows this occured, that is why i said Muslims, Jews and Christians were living together. That was not the land that was stolen.

        Palestinians were being removed from their homes BEFORE the 1948 war by Zionist terrorist groups such as the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi (which infact carried out the first terrorist bombing in the holy land). This is why the 1948 war started. The Zionists decided to create the state of Israel on stolen land and the rest of the world allowed them as compensation for Hitler’s actions.

        Had the Zionists not created the illegal and illegitimate state of Israel, you would not have been expelled from the Arab lands. So your predicament occured because of the actions of the Zionist terrorist groups.

        It will only be a matter of time before all Palestinian refugees will return back to their lands and homes that they were forced from in the years up to the 1948 war. Unfortunately for the Jews living on these lands they will be made to leave due to the actions of the Zionist terrorist groups.

    • MeYosemite

      I would hate to say that some chunk of that land was sold by our older Lebanese generation Sursocks and others under the Turkish time, and that had reseeded the land. Below is an extract from Wikipedia. On the other hand the intention behind the settlers is questionable.

      “In addition to owning land in Lebanon, the Sursock family owned more than 60,000 acres (240 km²) in the Vale of Esdraelon, the Jezreel Valley, in Palestine. [4] It is believed that the Sursock family sold the land in Palestine for nearly three quarters of a million pound to the Jewish National Fund in 1906.[5] The family evicted the Arab tenants of the villages to allow the Jewish settlers to move in.[6]”