200 Sderot protesters gather at PMO

Urge gov't to make Sderot security a priority; Say "Nobody should be expected to live the way we do."

Sderot protest 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Sderot protest 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
As Kassam rockets continued to pound Sderot, some 200 of its residents traveled by bus to Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon and joined dozens of supporters from across the country to protest the deteriorating security situation in the South. In the morning they blocked the entrance to the capital, snarling traffic for several hours, and then made their way in convoy to the Prime Minister's Office. "The country needs to wake up," said Eitan, a Jerusalemite who stood with a sign reading "You Failed - Go Home," with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's face superimposed in the background. "For seven years, nobody has cared about Sderot," he continued. "It's time for people to realize what the situation is." Rocket attacks from Gaza on Sderot and the surrounding communities have sharply increased over the last three weeks, and dozens of residents - including children - have been wounded. On Sunday, eight-year-old Osher Twito had his leg amputated; he was wounded by one of the almost four dozen rockets fired from northern Gaza over the weekend. His brother Rami, 19, was also seriously wounded. The demonstrators gathered at the entrance to the Prime Minister's Office, banging on metal barricades and yelling "Resign!" Some held the remains of Kassam rockets, several of which had hit their front yards. Ayelet Azulai came from Sderot with four of her six children. "My daughter saw a Kassam fall right in front of her yesterday," Azulai said. "Enough is enough. The government needs to take care of our security the way they're supposed to." Mark Spanglet, who travelled from Beersheba, stood watching the crowd. "Sderot is not Gush Katif," he said. "It's the middle of the country. If we don't take a stand, the next stop is Ashkelon, then Netivot, and then Beersheba. The children of Sderot are innocent victims, and they deserve protection." "The prime minister might hear us, but it will go in one ear and out the other," said Royee Siluk, who came from Netanya. "The important thing is that the country hears us. Not the politicians." The protesters used loudspeakers to blast the Color Red siren, which is sounded in Sderot every time an incoming rocket is detected. "All we hear is Color Red," said a Sderot resident who preferred not to be named. "Sometime it comes at 1 in the morning, and you jump out of bed, still half asleep, and just start running." He paused to adjust the large Kassam in his arms. "I'm asking you heart-to-heart," he continued. "Tell our story the way it is. Nobody should be expected to live the way we do." At one point, a woman fainted and was helped away by police and medics. Overall, the demonstration was orderly. "The police are maintaining public order and preventing further disturbances," said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfield, who was standing nearby. "No one has been arrested and so far everything is relatively calm in comparison to their pain and anger." Still, the atmosphere was tense, as people held up large photographs of homes that had been struck by rockets and signs calling on the government to make Sderot's security a priority. "Come outside and see your citizens!" a protester chanted through a bullhorn. "Next time we'll bring more buses. Next time we'll bring more people!" Demonstrators took turns shouting slogans through the loudspeakers, calling on members of Knesset to resign and voicing their frustration. After about an hour, some people began to leave, boarding buses or simply walking home. Others stayed to set up a protest tent, saying they would remain until Olmert returns later in the week from his trip to Germany.