Day before cease-fire, Kassam slams into Sderot home

While some residents welcome truce, house owner says it's "just meaningless talk."

Kassam removed 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam removed 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Late Wednesday afternoon, a Palestinian-launched Kassam rocket shattered the window of Haim Shikori's Sderot home less than 12 hours before the cease-fire with Hamas was set to go into effect. Shikori was sitting in the living room watching television when a warning siren sent him, his wife and the three of their six children who were home scurrying for the protected room. "Then the whole house shook," Shikori said as he stood smoking in his kitchen, which was filled with shattered glass. The blast from the Kassam, which fell on the walkway right outside his home, was so strong that it caused the window's metal frame to peel off and pockmarked the walls of the home next door. Panicked by the blast, Shikori's eight-year-old son was taken to the hospital along with his mother. They were later released. Next door, the Peretz family was busy sweeping away shattered glass. Uri Peretz, a father of four, said he had been in the shower when the siren rang out. Naked and wet, he had hardly been in a position to race to the safe room, so he had simply dropped to the floor. Shikori said this was the third time in the last few years that a rocket had shattered his windows, so the notion of a truce seemed absurd to him. "I don't believe it, and you shouldn't either," he said, shaking his head. "It's just meaningless talk." Among the neighbors who poured in to check on Shikori's welfare was Tikva Ben-Zev, who was so worried about rockets that she wore a beeper on the strap of her sleeveless black top to alert her to impending rockets. "We're just tired of this," she said. For Ben-Zev, Shikori and other residents of the beset southern border, the notion of a truce that would stop Palestinians in Gaza from launching rockets and mortars seemed like a pipe dream. Some said they would welcome it. Others, like Shikori, thought that the only solution was a military one. Security will only be achieved if the IDF goes in with tractors and levels Gaza, he said. But sitting in the living room of her home on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which lost one of its members in a mortar attack in May, Talia Berman said that a truce would be a respite from the fear that haunts her daily. She, like most residents in the South, lacks secure rooms in her home or anywhere within a reachable distance. "We need this truce, just to give us some peace of mind. We just need to breathe safely for a while, so we can stop worrying about where our children are. We do not know what will happen when they go out," said Berman. She is so worried that she has given cellphones to her 10-year-old twin boys. If they want to roam outside in the afternoon, she tries to send an adult with them to keep them calm in the event of an attack. On her kibbutz, where residents can see Gaza just by standing on the back road and looking out across a green field and where helicopters hover over them at night, they already feel like they live in a battlefield. Military solutions are risky and involve loss of life, she said, adding that in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, she was concerned that Israel was not capable of winning against guerrilla groups like Hamas. "Call me naïve, but I want to believe it will be quiet for a least a little bit," she said. One of her tasks on the kibbutz is to be part of a group that sends out SMS messages about impending attacks. On Wednesday, she and a friend of hers, who is also part of the group, speculated that maybe they no longer needed to make a schedule since, by Thursday, there might not be a need for those messages. As she spoke, a warning siren caused her to jump up quickly in search of her twin sons, who she found already stationed in the safest room in the house, playing on their computers. On the outskirts of Sderot, however, where southern border residents have had a protest tent up for nearly a week, angry residents who opposed the truce poured out their frustrations during a visit by the Defense Ministry's settlements adviser, Eitan Broshi. The lack of a military response, they told him, was only proof to them that the government planned to continue its policy of abandoning them. Broshi agreed with them that the government had, both now and in the past, done a poor job of dealing with the situation. He urged them to use the time given them by a truce, to push for protection. Broshi said some NIS 450 million was needed in addition the NIS 327m. that had been allotted, to provide protection for residents living 4.5 kilometers from the border. "We want protection and defense," said Nina Herman from Mefalsim. At age seven, her daughter Shahar has never known what it is like to live without the threat of rocket attacks. "What I want," she told Broshi, "is not to worry about my daughter when she leaves home in the morning for school. Every day, I feel as if my very life is threatened. If an [IDF] attack is the best protection, so yalla, let's do it." To focus just on the lack of protection is like "giving out aspirin to fight cancer," she said.