Dichter finds 'battered, abandoned town'

Minister visits Sderot as Kassams continue to hit western Negev; IAF strikes rocket launching cell.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 9, 2008 15:19
3 minute read.
Dichter finds 'battered, abandoned town'

Kassam cell fab 224.88. (photo credit: Channel 1)

As Kassam rockets continued to hit the western Negev on Saturday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter paid a visit to the beleaguered town of Sderot. "I found a battered town where some 20 percent of residents have simply upped and left," Army Radio quoted Dichter as saying. The public security minister said that Sderot residents described to him how they were living from one miracle to the next and that on Saturday morning, there was a higher attendance in synagogues than usual. "When I traveled in the direction of Sderot," continued Dichter, "I saw crowds arriving for the 'Red South' festival, but when I got to Sderot, I saw desolate streets, emptied of people - people closed up inside their homes." On Sunday, the public security minister is due to brief the cabinet on his visit to the town. After a turbulent Friday on which some 40 Kassams and mortar shells slammed into the western Negev, the attacks continued Saturday morning as two rockets fired from Gaza hit the Sha'ar Hanegev region. One of the rockets landed next to a kibbutz, while the other fell near a junction. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. The IAF hit back, striking a Popular Resistance Committees' rocket launching cell in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun. The army said that the terrorists were standing next to rocket launchers. Two of the terrorists were wounded in the air strike, including one seriously, Palestinian medics reported. The air force also destroyed four other rocket launchers in the area. Late Friday, two Sderot homes suffered direct hits from Kassams, sending six people into shock - four of whom were eating their Shabbat dinner when the rockets struck. One man was evacuated to a hospital, suffering from chest pains, and two other residents of the town were lightly wounded after falling down while scampering for shelter from the rockets. Following Friday's rocket barrage, Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman issued a complaint to the UN secretary-general and the UNSC president. Gillerman cited the severe and worrying terror activities which have been perpetrated against Israel over the last few days. In his formal letter of complaint, the UN envoy highlighted the two young girls wounded in a Kassam rocket attack on Kibbutz Be'eri on Wednesday. He wrote that the rocket attacks were part of a campaign by the Hamas leadership, the principal aim of which is to kill Israelis. Due to the incessant rocket attacks, some 30 people blocked traffic in both directions at the southern entrance to Sderot on Friday night, protesting the government's "neglect" of the town's residents. Meanwhile, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the rocket attacks were a justified response to Israel's attacks on Gaza. Haniyeh also said that there was no progress in negotiations to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Nevertheless, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhari proposed a truce saying that rocket attacks would be stopped if the IDF halts all its operations against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. In an interview with a Saudi newspaper, Zuhari said that "the ball is in Israel's court." Hamas said Friday that it would not be deterred by Israel's cutback of the power supply. "The Zionist enemy must understand that the policy of assassinations, of attacks, of embargo, of cutting electricity and fuel will not halt the resistance and will not break the back of the Palestinians," said senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan. "We warn them of a large volcano that will erupt if their aggression increases." Meanwhile, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO executive committee and a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the rocket attacks, calling them a "worthless" tactic which was being used by Israel as an excuse to "continue its acts of aggression," Army Radio reported.


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