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August 26, 2019 1:24 pm

Residents of Southern Israel Express Trauma, Rage and Despair After Gaza Rocket Attack That Disrupted Sderot Music Festival

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Streaks of light are pictured as rockets are launched from the northern Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Sderot, Aug. 8, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Residents of the Israeli border city of Sderot described their feeling of helplessness, anger and trauma after rocket fire from the neighboring Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip disrupted an open-air local music festival on Sunday night.

The rockets came following an IDF operation that thwarted a major terror attack on Israel’s north, with many seeing them as a retaliation.

Hila Gonen-Peretz, who heads the local trauma center in Sderot, told the Israeli news site Mako of the attack that sent attendees at the Live Sderot music festival scrambling for safety, “It is an unusual event that has caused a lot of anxiety and will burn in the memory of this city. Crying, vomiting, uncontrollable tremors, abdominal pain and headaches, and difficulty falling asleep. It’s impossible to get used to such a difficult reality.”

Uri, a 12-year-old attendee at the festival, said, “It felt like a horror movie. Kids running, parents looking for their kids, my friends crying. I felt helpless. I could only lie on the floor and pray.”

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“My mother was lying and covering my little sister, who is just a year old,” he said. “Her whole life is ahead of her and she was traumatized for life. My sister did not choose to be born into this reality. A reality of fear, a reality of sadness and pain.”

“Islamic Jihad and Hamas control us,” Uri asserted. “They tell us when to go to school, when to go to work, when to cancel a big performance, and when to run in fear and cry.”

Amit Caspi, another attendee, said that there was inadequate shelter for the people in the area, with four to five secure rooms that quickly overflowed.

“They were all filled to the brim with a long line outside,” he said.

“I was able to find a place for my children in one of them, and I started looking for other children who were left outside and let them in,” he recounted.

“It was a shocking experience,” Caspi said. “This was an attempt at a mass attack, I have no doubt.”

Caspi blasted the Israeli government for failing to stop the rocket threat, claiming that Gaza terrorist groups “haven’t received a proper response at all, and there’s nothing stopping them from doing it again.”

“Until yesterday, the terrorist organizations did not dare to shoot at a mass event. I have lived in the border area for 16 years, and I do not remember such a thing,” he added. “Today they feel they can — and they’ve proven it, too.”

Dalia Harel, a Sderot teacher, expressed despair and anger over the situation, saying of Israel’s national anthem, “On Sunday I am going to teach my students ‘Hatikva.’ But I do not connect with ‘to be a free people in our land.’ We are not really a free people in our land. The state cannot say that it protects its citizens.”

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