Kiryat Shmona residents resiliant

Mayor Haim Barbivai: 'If we break, the whole nation will be lost.'

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July 27, 2006 21:04
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No one was wounded by the salvo of Katyusha rockets that hit Kiryat Shmona on Thursday afternoon, but for a few minutes there was major concern as emergency services believed that a chemicals factory had been hit. The only physical casualty of the afternoon attack was a fire fighter who was knocked over by a forklift outside the factory and lightly injured. A few people were treated for shock.

WAR IN THE NORTH: DAY 17
There were two more Katyusha attacks on Kiryat Shmona later in the day. In the second one, at 7:25 p.m. two people were lightly wounded. The attack at 2:20 p.m. was part of a barrage of 75 Katyushas that Hizbullah fired against towns and villages throughout the Galilee. Five fire engines belonging to fire houses as far away as Jerusalem and Petah Tikva used foam to extinguish the fire - standard procedure when hazardous materials are thought to be involved. The owners of the building in the town's northern industrial zone came to the scene and were quick to assure the firefighters that the structure, which was totally destroyed in the blaze, was a warehouse containing equipment and materials for the adjacent Tropical Degil factory, which makes sanitary towels and toothpaste. Yossi Himi, a local businessman and one of the owners of the warehouse, said the damage ran in the "hundreds of thousands of shekels." Other sites in the town hit by rockets included the park next to the town's shopping mall and a car park in a residential area. Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai said that about half of the town's population had decided to not to leave for safer areas to the south. "Some of them just can't afford to go away," he said, "and the rest are here because they have jobs to do, like me." Barbivai said that after two weeks in bomb shelters, most residents were disregarding the Home Command's instructions to stay in the shelters. "They weren't built for such a long stay, and even if they were deluxe shelters, it still would have been impossible. I am also staying in my house," he said. Barbivai accused senior officials in the Finance Ministry of blocking aid to the beleaguered town. "We aren't getting any help from them for the businesses here or for our emergency services. Luckily, some ministers are helping us out, like Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, who authorized NIS 3 million as an emergency grant," he said. Barbivai has met three times with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the last two weeks, "but it looks like the Finance officials are more powerful than the prime minister," the mayor said. Also at the scene was Moshe Vaknin, a lifelong Kiryat Shmona resident who lives near the industrial zone. Vaknin has two daughters - the youngest born two weeks ago, on the day the fighting erupted. He said he would prefer to leave but that he had no family outside the town and has no where to go. "In the past, when Kiryat Shmona was under fire," he said, "they would do everything for us, but now it's the entire North that is being attacked so we're getting much less." Mayor Barbivai said that despite reports of growing desperation among residents, "We realize that this time it's not only about Kiryat Shmona. The whole country is under attack, so despite everything, we have to make it though this period because if we break, the whole nation will be lost."

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