Sderot residents skeptical of truce

"We've been in these cease-fires before, it's not going to hold," says Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal.

Despite five Kassam-free days, many residents of Sderot do not expect the current cease-fire to last and hope for Israel to conduct a major military operation should the truce break down. Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal said his skepticism is based on previous cease-fires that have lasted for days or weeks, only to break down. "We've been in these cease-fires before," said Moyal. "It's not going to hold, because its goal is not for Hamas to stop bombing Sderot; rather, it was established for technical motives. Hamas asked that we stop [military operations], and it's too bad we did." The cease-fire has held since Thursday morning and then Israel opened up some crossings into Gaza to allow more food and medicine through. Even so, Moyal said that neither the agreement's potential to last nor the benefits it brings legitimized it. "I don't think this is the way of the Middle East," he said. "Even if the truce goes on for a year, it doesn't matter. The point is that Hamas will get stronger." Some, including Sderot resident Mark Ifraimov, said that the daily Kassam barrage has become routine and that unless the cease-fire lasts, the peace is not worth the uncertainty it brings. "If you don't have Kassams for two weeks and then all of a sudden you have many of them, the panic and shock are greater," he said. Shalom Halevi, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said the inevitable end to the cease-fire would make military action the only feasible option for Israel against Hamas, and that the international community should support Israel in that endeavor. "[Israel] will suffer greater damages," said Halevi. "The nations of the world need to understand that a terror state is blossoming in Gaza. If the nations of the world won't cooperate with Israel to destroy the terror, the rest of the world will suffer from the terror." Mechi Sendel, an immigrant from New York who has lived in Sderot for 15 years, said a military operation would follow a pattern set by the Israeli government in previous situations like this. "The solution [to the conflict] has to be what we did everywhere else where there were problems," said Sendel, "where the government wasn't afraid of doing the right thing." Sendel added that Hamas's defeat would greatly benefit Gaza residents as well. "The people of Gaza want us to clear out the terrorists," she said. "They themselves are terrorized. We evacuated thousands of people so that the people of Gaza could have a place to build houses, have a way of supporting themselves." But Sendel, a mother of seven, is thankful for the reprieve from rockets the cease-fire has brought. "We're enjoying the quiet," she said. "Every single person I spoke to tells me how [things have] changed. The children can go outside on scooters. I breathe easier when I go in the car and strap my kid in." Still, some Sderot families have found more secure alternatives for their children's summer breaks, sending them to worldwide summer camps on a program sponsored by Chabad. Also skeptical of the truce lasting, many aid groups have continued their relief efforts in Sderot. "For now we're continuing to operate normally," said Dina Cohen, spokeswoman for the Committee for a Secure Sderot. "We still have much community work to do." Hospitals in and around Sderot also continue to prepare for the worst, according to Emile Hay, Deputy Director of Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center, where most Kassam victims are treated. "We hope that the cease-fire will continue... but we have orders to be aware and ready for everything - for a war, for anything," Hay told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The fortification of hospital windows to protect patients from shrapnel, a process which began some months ago, is continuing despite the cease-fire, he said, and plans to build an underground treatment center in case of war are proceeding. "Gaza is like a bomb that will explode anytime," he said. "We want to finish [the underground facilities] as soon as we can. After a rocket landed a few hundred meters from the medical center in late February, the hospital was forced to evacuate patients to its bomb shelters." Some Sderot residents see the cease-fire as the government prioritizing the retrieval of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who was taken by Hamas two years ago, above the security of Sderot. "[Schalit's] parents are wrong," said Sendel. "I've never heard of us putting loads of citizens in danger for one soldier."