Sderot closed off to protest Kassams

Residents block roads, cut services to protest gov't inability to halt attacks.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 20, 2006 12:37
2 minute read.

 
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Residents of this southern Israeli town brought the community to a standstill on Tuesday, blocking roads and cutting municipal services, to protest the government's inability to halt Palestinian rocket attacks from the neighboring Gaza Strip. About 30 demonstrators gathered at the main entrance to Sderot, placing a bulldozer and truck in the road to prevent traffic from entering. Town workers were striking and threatened to cut all electricity at night in protest. Sderot recently shut its schools for the summer several weeks ahead of schedule. "Nobody from the government has come, and until they do, we will continue this with no limits," said Mayor Eli Moyal, who joined the protesters. Employees of Sderot's city beautification department blocked the entrances and exits to the city on Tuesday morning using vehicles. The move was made in protest of Kassam rockets that have recently struck the southern town. Police, including mounted forces, were positioned around the city in order to maintain order. Although the crude Kassam rockets are inaccurate, they have killed six Sderot residents, damaged buildings and severely disrupted life in Sderot. Residents are woken almost every night by sirens alerting them to incoming rockets. Further upsetting residents, Vice Premier Shimon Peres dismissed Sderot residents' fears as "hysterical" and suggested that their complaints were encouraging militants to keep up the attacks. "They know we are scared here ... We are tired and want to sleep peacefully at night," said Hava Gad, 41, an unemployed mother of three who has been staging a hunger strike for nine days. Gad said she lost a marketing job because she missed so much work time tending to her terrified children. She said she and her children have gone into therapy, and her youngest child, who is 7 1/2 years old, has started wetting his bed again. Even as the demonstrations began, Palestinian militants fired at least three rockets from the northern Gaza Strip, about five kilometers (three miles) away. No damage or injuries were reported. Israeli media said the relentless rocket fire has forced several frightened families to move out of town. Annette Sadan, 54, said some of her children who live in Tel Aviv have been pleading with her to pack up and leave. "I will never leave this city," Sadan said. "We are not afraid and we will never leave. We grew up here, and will continue to live here until the end." Other residents called on the government to use even more military force. The IDF has been stumped by the rockets, which are little more than metal tubes filled with simple fuel and topped with a tiny explosive warhead. The rockets take just a few seconds to reach Sderot. Adding to the challenge, militants often seek cover in densely populated civilian areas. The military has said it cannot let attacks on Israeli civilians pass without a response. Peretz suggested this week that the army would intensify its retaliatory attacks against rocket launchers.

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