Yahav says Haifa can withstand Hizbullah

By MARK WEISS,
July 17, 2006 03:40
3 minute read.

"I haven't cried yet," said David Wizel, of the Israel Railways maintenance depot in Haifa that lost eight of its 40 employees when a missile fired by Hizbullah plunged through its metal roof mid-morning on Sunday. The rocket landed on the platform below, wounding at least 17 workers. It shattered train windows and scattered metal, plastic and the big white lamps that hung from the roof. Minutes earlier, some 30 workers, Jewish and Arab, had been repairing two railway carriages on parallel platforms. In describing Haifa's first fatal rocket attack, Wizel said he had been standing outside the maintenance depot near the seashore when he heard the explosion. "One of the workers standing near me said he wasn't feeling well and he lay on the floor," Wizel told The Jerusalem Post. Only then did he realize that the man was wounded. People came to work that morning as usual, said Wizel, because they believed they would have time to reach the shelters nearby. But it all happened too quickly, he added. Tony Karem, who lives opposite the maintenance depot, ran to the site when the explosion shattered his family breakfast. He was greeted by death and destruction. He saw five bodies lying in front of him as he ran in the side door. One of the men was still alive but died a few minutes later. Hours later, Wizel said he still hadn't grasped that eight workers he had seen every day were gone. "I spent more time with them than with my family," he said. Standing surveying the rubble, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said that employees below ground were spared, while all those working on the platform were wounded or killed. He held in his hand a small metal pellet that was only a few millimeters wide. The missile was packed with hundreds of these pellets that are similar to those used by suicide bombers. Yahav stressed that he had known difficult days in the past, such as the suicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant in 2003, but this was the first time that war had been declared on the city, he said. "It's a new reality for our city," said Yahav. He was joined in the maintenance depot by a number of politicians including Transportation Minister and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who gave a hasty press conference while standing in a pool of blood that still hadn't been cleaned up. Yahav said that in spite of the attack's severity he had faith that his city could withstand this latest threat. Following Sunday's rocket hit, Yahav - upon instructions from the IDF Home Front Command - ordered residents to stay indoors. He also canceled summer programs for children, festivals and other cultural events until the rocket threat has passed. All day the streets were almost deserted. Only a handful of shops remained open. The usually bustling downtown area turned into a ghost town. While there was no mass exodus, a number of people could be seen packing bags into cars and heading out of the city. But not everyone ceased their activities. Rocket threats didn't stop Brosi Amrumin from returning home after a vacation in Eilat. He stood on the sidewalk on Sunday evening washing his car as he shrugged off the new threat from the skies. "It's all in God's hands," he said. Ludmilla Rosenthal pushed her one-year-old son on a swing in the park outside her home. She was more nervous than Amrumin, but said she felt she had no choice. "A baby can't sit inside all the time," Rosenthal said. Gregory Brown said that he had gone with his wife and three young children into the shelter for three hours that morning. "It was crowded and hot," he said. The family left for an hour, went back and then gave up on the shelter. They too played in the park. "There's no one that isn't scared, but what can you do, that's life," he said. Even Yahav sat on Sunday evening in an outdoor cafe. He said he believed that his city would persevere and survive this new threat. The mayor was also confident that the current conflict would not harm the congenial relations between Jews and Arabs in the city. "The whole fabric of Haifa society is united in one goal: to achieve peace," the mayor said. "Nothing can harm the good relations between Jews and Arabs in Haifa because it's something that has lasted for 100 years."


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