Kfar Aza may take gov't to court for failure protect from rockets

Residents say when cease-fire ends they will be left facing mortars and rockets without any protection.

Kassam Great 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
Kassam Great 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The four-day truce between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding up, but residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, just three kilometers from the Gaza border, say that when it ends they will be left facing mortars and rockets without any protection. They claim that all their efforts to secure funding for rocket protection have disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. "We have budgetary approval to plan fortification, but we have no budgetary approval to begin the construction," said Ya'akov Bogin, a kibbutz member heavily involved in the efforts to spark government action. Waves of incessant mortar attacks in recent weeks have caused some residents to ponder whether they should remain on the kibbutz. Just last month, 48-year-old Kfar Aza resident Jimmy Kedoshim was killed by a mortar as he tended to the garden outside his home. "If the truce ends, we will be under fire without protection. We are considering legal steps, including the possibility of taking the state to the High Court over its failure to protect its citizens," Bogin said. "We are using all of our limited political means to try and raise support." With the hope of immediately beginning construction, Kfar Aza residents have gone as far as proposing that the government provide assistance in the form of loans which kibbutz members offered to then pay back. "We wrote to a number of Knesset members about this weeks ago. There's been no reply," Bogin said. In the neighboring town of Sderot, residents continue to fortify their homes as quickly as possible, local officials said on Sunday. "The fortification against rockets will go on whether there is a truce or not," said Shalom Halevi, spokesman for Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal. According to Halevi, 20 percent of homes in Sderot have already been beefed up with thick concrete to shield people from Kassam attacks; 2,500 "safe rooms" already exist in the town. "The most vulnerable homes, built before the 1990s, are fortified," he said. Now Sderot is hoping to speed through the next stage, in which 2,500 additional homes will be equipped with the means to withstand a rocket strike. Halevi outlined a unique arrangement between the town and the government according to which each resident can hire his or her own contractor to carry out the fortification work. After having their building plans approved by Sderot's municipality, residents receive NIS 86,000 to pay for construction costs. "The residents decide on how to build," Halevi said, adding that the government has provided $350 million for Sderot's rocket protection program. "There is also a program to protect schools and kindergartens, which is being developed right now," Halevi added. In the past some Sderot residents reacted angrily to government fortification plans, viewing them as defensive and passive means to deal with the seven-year bombardment of the town, and a poor substitute for an offensive military campaign in Gaza. But Halevi says "there's no such thing as a resident who doesn't want fortification." Sderot is also peppered with concrete huts, designed to offer protection to residents caught by a Color Red rocket alert while waiting for a bus, walking to school, or heading home on foot.