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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defense Minister Amir Peretz might be used to Kassam rocket attacks on his hometown of Sderot but on Thursday he got a taste of what the residents of northern Israel are going through after he was rushed to an underground bunker inside IDF Northern Command headquarters in Safed when a barrage of Hizbullah-fired Katyusha rockets landed nearby. This reporter accompanied him throughout those tense hours.
Peretz arrived at the military base overlooking Safed at 1:30 PM and went straight into a meeting with OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. During the meeting, large explosions were heard in the background and Peretz's military attach Brig.-Gen. Eitan Dangot began arguing with another officer whether the explosions were caused by Israeli artillery fire or Katyusha rockets landing nearby.
Suddenly a siren went off throughout the base and without wasting anytime or taking chances, Peretz's team of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) security guards decided to rush the minister to a nearby underground bunker. Peretz at first laughed and told the officers at the meeting: "I am from Sderot. This is not such a big deal."
Before entering the bunker, Peretz tried to hold a meeting with leaders of local councils in the North about the current tense situation. The meeting, however, was cut short after the security guards decided to move it to the bunker. On his way out of the meeting, Yonit Levy, Channel 2's anchorwoman, tried provoking the minister and asked him: "What do you say to the people who claim you are a defense minister without experience?" Peretz decided not to answer and told journalists: "Don't get excited. I come from Sderot where there are constantly Kassam attacks."
Minutes later, a Katyusha fell inside the base and that was the red line for the security guards who began running with Peretz in tow towards the underground bunker. Within seconds, the base turned into a ghost town after all the soldiers were ordered into the bunker with Peretz. Upon entering the bunker, Peretz was met by a female soldier who cried out: "Where is my mother?" Her family was from Safed and she was concerned that they had been hurt in a rocket attack on the city.
Peretz continued his meeting with the local council leaders in the underground bunker where the officials demanded that the government set up an inter-ministerial team of ministers to deal with the current crisis in the North and to assist the communities in making it through the difficult times ahead.