Residents of Rocket-Battered Southern Israel Express Dismay Over Gaza Ceasefire
After several days of unrelenting rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, residents of Israel’s south expressed frustration and anger on Monday with the announced ceasefire and the ongoing stalemate with Hamas.
Hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel over the weekend, killing four Israelis and critically wounding several others. The IDF responded with major retaliatory strikes in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but a ceasefire declared on Monday appeared to leave things as inconclusive as ever.
The Hebrew news site Mako quoted Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi as saying, “Finally, we saw that it is possible to return to the policy of targeted killings and I’m happy that it happened,” a reference to Israel’s assassination of Hamas commander Hamad Al Khodori, who was reportedly responsible for transferring Iranian funds to the Islamist terrorist group.
“But yesterday a serious mistake was made,” Davidi said of the ceasefire. “Anyone who spoke about deterrence didn’t achieve it.”
“We will arrive at a situation in two or three weeks where a terrorist may fire at one of our soldiers, and we’ll be back on the same merry-go-round,” he added.
“If I were prime minister,” Davidi asserted, “I would have said to Hamas and Islamic Jihad: ‘You want to shoot at Tel Aviv, shoot at Tel Aviv; you want to shoot at Jerusalem, shoot at Jerusalem; but we will continue to hit your highest officials and we will not hesitate.’”
Ordinary residents also expressed frustration and even rage at recent developments.
“This is a government of disgrace and failure,” said a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom. “Hamas and the government of Israel are playing a game of, ‘Whose is bigger,’ and the residents are the ones getting hurt.”
A resident of Kibbutz Nirim was equally outraged, saying, “This is a morning of crisis and shame. After 700 rockets, four dead, and three critically wounded … you chose to fold, to manage the conflict as a situation in which they will continue to burn our fields every other day, explosive balloons, border infiltrations, snipers 100 meters from the border fence.”
Ongoing riots on Israel’s border with Gaza have seen terrorists launching incendiary balloons and other devices into Israeli territory, causing millions of dollars in damage to local agriculture. There have also been numerous attempts to infiltrate southern Israel.
“This is a ceasefire to serve Eurovision,” the resident asserted. “A white flag before a group of murderers.”
Many analysts have said that Israel did not go to war against Hamas this time because the Eurovision song contest is slated to take place in Tel Aviv later this month.
Baruch from Ashkelon told Yediot Ahronot, “I think this is a failure for Netanyahu and I am sorry I convinced people to vote for him.”
Referring to the bodies of Israeli soldiers and two living Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza, Baruch asked, “What did we get? The soldiers’ bodies? The prisoners? No. We got 700 rockets and terrified children. We didn’t sleep at night for two days, we didn’t work, and we hid in our homes, and what did Netanyahu do? Arrived at a ceasefire with them.”
“Gaza decides when to start a war and when to stop it,” he stated.
Shula, a Sderot resident, said, “There’s tension and fear in the air. We had a very hard few days.”
“I don’t believe in this ceasefire,” she noted. “We always have hope, this isn’t the first time, and we’ve lived with this reality for so many years, but the scope of the latest round was unusual even for us.”
In the meantime, students began to return to school, though Hebrew news site Walla reported that, in one Sderot school, only 20 percent of students arrived for morning classes.
Many of the children spoke about their experiences.
“There was a red-alert siren and we did not have protection,” said a first-grader. “I lay down with my family on the sidewalk and covered my head with my hands.”
Another student talked about being forced to stay in a fortified room, saying, “I’m tired of sitting there all day, it’s hard.”
A mother whose children attend the school said, “This is a strange return to routine. We were sure there would be a long battle, but it’s always good to get back to normal.”
“It was very difficult to get the children organized this morning,” she added. “We hope, of course, that the quiet will continue, but the fear still exists.”
“We’re sure they will come back,” she said of the rocket attacks.
School director Dina Huri said, “The important thing that needs to be done after an escalation is dialogue, to examine every child and their personal story. We have to be a place that listens.”