Sderot petitioners furious over delays in decision

30 residents of beleaguered town ask High Court to issue state show-cause order to build reinforced safety rooms.

sderot kassam 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
sderot kassam 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Petitioners calling on the state to build reinforced safety rooms for 800 homes in Sderot demanded on Sunday that the High Court of Justice immediately issue a show-cause order after the state made it clear it has not yet decided whether or not to build the rooms. The petition was filed by 30 residents of Sderot, most of whom live in tile-roofed houses. The leader of the group is Sderot municipal spokesman Yosef Pinhas Cohen, whose mother lives in one of these houses. Several petitioners have already built safety rooms at their own expense and are demanding that the government reimburse them. The first hearing on the petition was held on December 12. At the end of the hearing, the High Court of Justice handed down a decision asking the state to "make every effort to speed up finding solutions for protecting the residents of Sderot, including building reinforced safety rooms." The court noted that the state's representative, attorney Dina Silver, had told the court the planning work would be completed by the end of December. It asked Silver to convey to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert its request that the government give the matter top priority so it could begin implementing its decisions in January. However, on January 15, the state informed the court that the government was still considering its options and had not yet decided whether or not to build reinforced safety rooms. In a furious response, the petitioners' lawyer, Lior Eisenfeld, wrote, "We can see that not only has the planning work not been completed, but that there has not even been any significant progress made. The discussion on the principles of providing shelter and the examination of other options began before the December 12 hearing and the state told the court it would be finished before the end of the year. "It turns out that the state's treatment of the court is no different than its treatment of the residents of Sderot and the Gaza periphery - it floats slogans and promises in the air [and] spills ink on paper but has no intention whatsoever of keeping its word," the response continued. Eisenfeld wrote that the petitioners were particularly upset by a section of the state's response which said that the "real issue" was the fortitude of Sderot's residents in the face of the rocket attacks against the city. "The residents of Sderot do not have to prove their fortitude to anyone, least of all the government," wrote Eisenfeld. "They are still there, even though for the last seven years Kassam rockets have been falling daily on their heads. The government, on the other hand, has not succeeded in stopping the rocket salvoes and says it won't be able to in the foreseeable future." In a related development, attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner wrote to Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the name of 50 Sderot residents, demanding that the army set up a Nautilus missile defense system against short-range missiles around Sderot. She also demanded that within two years, the army set up the comprehensive missile defense system "Skyguard."