Residents of Beersheba’s Heh neighborhood were still coping with shock on
Wednesday morning, hours after a Grad rocket crashed into one of the
neighborhood’s streets, scattering shrapnel in all directions and leaving one
Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich cancelled school for the
city’s pupils following the early-morning strike for safety reasons.
have 40,000 students going to school in the morning and we don’t know if there
will be another strike.
The situation is too dangerous to take a risk,”
Danilovich said Wednesday.
The mayor added that the city’s residents are
“dealing with the situation, which is terror being directed at Beersheba and the
South with the goal of harming innocent civilians. We can’t let ourselves get
into some sort of routine where this happens every few weeks.”
said he hopes “the government takes a stand and puts a stop to this,” but added
that “we don’t want a war, we want there to be quiet for the residents of the
South and for the residents of Gaza.”
People gathered near the site of
the rocket strike, examining the damage done to the Saani home located only
meters away from where the missile landed in the middle of the street. Several
schoolchildren, let out of school for the day, walked around collecting ball
bearings and other shrapnel that had been packed into the rocket to maximize its
At the end of the block is an apartment building where
one resident was lightly wounded by a piece of shrapnel that flew hundreds of
meters, through his apartment blinds and into his third-floor
The roof and exterior gate of Mordechai Saani’s house was
pockmarked with holes, and there was shattered glass all over. Ball bearings
were still lodged in the interior cement walls in each of the house’s four
rooms. In the kitchen, support beams had been placed to hold up the ceiling,
which he said was now in danger of collapsing.
“We heard the alarm and
grabbed the kids from their beds and took them to an interior room only moments
before the missile struck and sprayed large rocks all over their beds. It was a
miracle,” Saani said.
That a miracle had occurred was a common sentiment
among residents of the neighborhood, the boyhood home of Vice Premier Silvan
Shalom (Likud), whose childhood home is only a few dozen meters from where the
The shockwaves from the strike blew out several windows
of the Shimon Shalom Synagogue built by Shalom in honor of his late father, but
the shattered glass was mostly cleared up by the afternoon.
Tsiboni, 33, said he was with a group of around 30 men who had started the
morning service at the synagogue when the sirens went off and the worshipers
began to scramble for cover.
“It was a serious miracle, look at where it
struck, literally between two houses,” Tsiboni said. “Only a few meters this way
or that and it would have killed everyone inside those houses.”
houses on this stretch of the street date back to the late 1950s, and are mainly
single-level structures lacking fortified concrete roofs or exterior walls. The
walls seem to be made mostly of cinderblocks and wood, and there appears to be a
paucity of bomb shelters.
Ilan Sheli played with his daughter Sapir two
doors down from the Saani house, and said that the stress of the strike is
having an effect on his children, who, he said, were playing within eyesight of
the bomb shelter all day in case the sirens went off again.
“It’s hard on
adults, of course it’s hard on children.
It brings back a huge fear for
all of us,” Sheli said.
Ilan’s brother Amos expressed the same fear,
saying that “when it lands only 20 meters from you it causes you great fear. I
hope there will be a second Cast Lead, because they [Gaza rocket and missile
squads] just won’t stop. We need to get back the peace and quiet we
Shortly before sunset, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima)
arrived in the neighborhood and visited the Shimon Shalom Synagogue, where she
received a phone call from Silvan Shalom and ducked into a corner for
Livni said she believes that the recent rocket attacks on the
South are a sign that armed groups in Gaza are trying to exploit the recent
instability in the Middle East “to stick out their necks and weaken the State of
She added that Israel must work to maintain the balance of power
in the region.
“The State of Israel is a strong country and we must use
power, like we did in the past, against Hamas and other extremist groups that
don’t accept our existence here and with whom we have no chance to reach an
agreement,” Livni said.
Livni also said that Israel must take steps to
protect its deterrent power, but that a decision whether or not to launch
another Gaza military operation is up to Netanyahu’s government.
in the day, Shalom visited the neighborhood and synagogue and said, “for me this
is very difficult, a missile striking a synagogue named after my late father
only a few meters from the house I grew up in.”
Shalom also said that
Israel would launch a Cast Lead II if needed, saying “we don’t want to launch a
mission that would cost lives, but we must protect the security and the lives of
our citizens. If we have no choice we will work to bring down the Hamas
The rocket strike came only two days after Shalom, who also
serves as Negev and Galilee development minister, pledged NIS 1 million for
protective gear and fortification of passages for farmers in the Eshkol region
near the border with the Gaza Strip.