Politicians traded barbs Tuesday over the government's policy of restraint in the face of continued rocket fire toward Sderot, even as local residents questioned their plans to besiege their own town.
From early morning, residents made good on a Sunday pledge to block roads and man checkpoints at the entrances to the town, but packed up around noon, saying that the heat was too much - even as other residents complained to local media about the effectiveness of blockading themselves.
Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorist groups continued in their attempts to fire rockets toward the town. Israeli military officials said three projectiles were fired but apparently fell short of their mark, landing inside Gaza.
Yosef Pinhas-Cohen, a spokesman for the Sderot council, said protests would continue Wednesday and town residents would set out to demonstrate in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu attacked the government for not taking decisive action against the terrorists, and slammed Vice Premier Shimon Peres for his comments Monday that played down the rocket attacks. "[Peres's] comments prove that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's government is completely disconnected from the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu told reporters. "I am trying to imagine what would happen if 600 Kassam rockets fell on Tel Aviv... I believe the response would be different."
Peres had told reporters on Monday, "Kassam, shmassam," saying that the city should not overact to the severity of the attacks. Sderot residents did not appreciate the comments. "I feel sorry for him," said Shlomo Suissa, town resident and a leading protest activist. "The State of Israel is playing with its residents."
In response, Yoram Dore, adviser to Peres, said that if the government or army had a solution to the Kassam fire, it would implement it. "There should be no financial limit on the protection for residents of Sderot," he added. But Dore blamed Israeli media for reporting "panic and hysteria" in Sderot. "The media should show responsibility and not play into the hands of terrorist organizations," he said.
Suissa said he planned to restart a hunger strike called off Monday after President Moshe Katsav visited.
"No one is taking us into account," Suissa said. "We are chumps, we sat there striking for nine days," and received nothing. "We need to block the entrance to Jerusalem, not to Sderot."
Tuesday's plan to blockade the town was just self-punishment, he said. "We need to turn off the electricity in Beit Hanun, in Gaza," he added, and not in Sderot, referring to a plan to turn off the town's power as a protest move Tuesday night.
Kinneret Rosenfeld, mother of five, said she stood at one of the barricades blocking a town entrance until noon. All those who needed to leave or gain access were allowed, she said.
"The idea was to protest that we are hostages here in Sderot," she said, but added that had she been in charge of the protest she would have chosen a different tactic.
"We didn't have the strength to stand there all day. We were fainting and crying. We tried. And at noon, the kids wanted to go home," Rosenfeld said. "We just don't have the strength. We're not embarrassed about it."
Rosenfeld said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should be ashamed for not showing solidarity with the townsfolk. She planned to join in protests in Jerusalem, she said.
In an apparent show of solidarity, Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai said Tuesday that he would move his office to Sderot as of Sunday. He would also request that the Cabinet's weekly Sunday meeting be held there.