Sderot police welcome drop in rocket attacks

On a Monday comparatively free from rocket attacks, Police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Southern District Police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev held a situation analysis at Sderot's police station. While the top brass met to discuss the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, three Kassams hit Sderot in the morning, while others landed in outlying areas throughout the day. The police decided to continue their current high level of alert in the area. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Bar-Lev had words of praise for his Sderot officers, saying, "This is the best police force in the world." Police numbers in the city have been boosted by officers from neighboring areas as part of an attempt by Central Command to help the local force cope with the mounting work load. On a relatively quiet afternoon, the Post joined a police patrol of the town with police officer Eran Suisa, despite warnings by his colleagues that "for some reason, the shelling really gets going when Eran goes on patrol." Suisa was joined by Bat Sheva Zitun of the Beersheba police, who specializes in community policing and has fostered close relationships with a number of Sderot families. "The other day I got into the car, heard the Color Red alert, ran back into the station, and then it all happened again," Zitun recalled. "I couldn't get the car started at all." "The local police needs backup all of the time, so that they can rest between shifts," Zitun added. Despite the relative lull in rocket fire Monday afternoon, "it's hard to forget the reality here even for a minute," she said. "I'm glad those who live here can appreciate the calm, which is like oxygen for the soul," Zitun said. As part of its close-knit community policing policy, the patrol stopped in at the home of the Magar family, who lost a daughter to a road accident. A second daughter was seriously wounded by shrapnel to her head in a Kassam rocket. "I'll never leave Sderot, though life here is a catastrophe for us," mother Osnat Magar said. "We only have God to believe in," she added. Barak Peled, Sderot's police sapper, led a tour among the hundreds of Kassam rocket remnants that have been carefully collected and marked at the back of the police station. He said some 7,000 rockets have landed in the town since the attacks began over seven years ago. "You can tell which group fired the rocket by certain characteristics," Peled said. "If there's a metal spine in the middle, it's Islamic Jihad. Hamas makes the wings round," he explained. "No one here is fully healthy mentally," Peled conceded. "When I hear on my radio that a rocket has been fired, I pray that it won't fall on a populated area. If it does fall there, I pray that it doesn't fall on a house. If it falls on a house, I pray that no one has been wounded, and if there are casualties, I pray that none are fatal," he said. "This one wounded the little boy last week," he said, pointing to a large metal rocket. Local residents expressed skepticism that anything other than a full-scale IDF invasion of the Gaza Strip would bring calm to Sderot. Ruth Atzulai, who opened a Tel Aviv-style café here with her husband, Tzion, said: "On one hand, I know that an invasion of Gaza is the only answer. On the other hand, I can't with good conscience tell the IDF to go and do that, because I know that we'll suffer heavy casualties if we do. These soldiers are also kids." Ruth's sister was badly wounded by a Kassam rocket last month. The couple moved to Sderot from Petah Tikva three months ago. "We'll never leave," Tzion said. "We've developed an ideology towards this place. We've shared the pain of the people. If we leave, it would be abandoning this town during wartime, and we won't do that."