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Dozens of Israeli Arab families who abandoned their homes in the North have found refuge in Jericho, one of the West Bank cities under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
The families began arriving in Jericho after Katyusha rockets hit Nazareth and other Arab communities, killing two Arab children. Many families are staying at the luxurious Jericho Resort Village, while others chose cheaper hotels or preferred to stay with friends and relatives.
The majority of the "refugees" came from Nazareth, Acre and Haifa, which have come under fire from Hizbullah almost every day since the beginning of the current crisis.
"We decided to go to Jericho because we don't have underground shelters or safe rooms in Arab cities and villages," said Ayman Abdullah, a father of four from Nazareth.
"We came here because it's relatively cheap when you compare it with the prices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. You can get a room in a five-star hotel for less than $100. Besides, we feel much safer in Jericho."
Bassem Samra, a lawyer from one of the villages in the Galilee, said he, his wife and three children were planning to spend at least four days in Jericho. "It's wonderful here, especially for the children, who have swimming pools and a cable car," he said.
"In the past we spent some time in Jericho and it was very nice. Also, the people here are very nice and they are doing everything to help us spend a great time."
A number of Israeli Arab families have also fled to east Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem, which also have fine hotels.
Sources in the PA Tourism Ministry said the families were being given a "special discount" in the hotels. "We invite any all Arab families to come and stay with us in the West Bank because it's very safe here," the source told The Jerusalem Post, pointing out that some 100 families spent the weekend in various West Bank hotels.
Rafik Jabareen, a lawyer from Umm el-Fahm, said most Israeli Arab communities don't have shelters or safe rooms. "Even in mixed cities like Haifa and Acre, Arab neighborhoods don't have any protection," he said. "The relevant authorities should refrain from issuing construction permits in the future without making sure that new houses include shelters and safe rooms."
Meanwhile, Abed Talouzeh, the father of Rabi and Muhammad, the two brothers who were killed in Nazareth last week when a Katyusha rocket hit their house, said his family holds Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz "directly responsible" for the tragedy.
"Olmert and Peretz killed my sons," the father charged. "This is what I will tell any government official who comes to visit me to offer condolences. This war must stop immediately."
He also lashed out at the Israeli media for "exploiting" the tragedy to "show the democratic face" of Israel. "I will never forget that I'm an Arab citizen who lives in a city with no shelters or sirens," he added. "By comparison, all the Jewish towns and cities around us have shelters and sirens that help save the lives of innocent people."
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