Monday, May 07, 2007
Off the Radar: Qassamim on Sderot
UPDATE (Monday night): The IDF has presented its current list of options for responding to the qassam firing. It looks like more of the same: 1) creating a buffer zone, 2) escalating the retaliation ("exacting a steep price on the Palestinians), 3) renewing assassinations of terrorist leaders, 4) improving technology for detecting smuggling tunnels, 5) strengthening intelligence. Olmert and Livni have so far resisted calls for an escalation. DISCUSS.
I am currently listening to an interview with Hana Ben-Ya'ish, the 65-year-old resident of the house that suffered a direct hit from a qassam rocket earlier today, on the radio. The house is located in downtown Sderot, very close to a kindergarten. By some miracle, she explained, the only part of the house left undamaged was her bedroom.
In the past week, there has been a significant increase in the qassam fire. On Sunday, a rocket hit a gas station near the city, injuring one employee. The residents of Sderot, it was clear from the interview with Ben-Ya'ish, are feeling completely abandoned. Even this latest attack is unlikely to generate a great deal of attention. People outside of Sderot and the other communities in qassam-range have grown used to the news. It has become routine for rockets to fall in Israeli towns.
The people of Sderot, meanwhile, are in despair at the lack of attention. "We are not a live fence for the state, we are not cannon fodder, and we are not geese going to the slaughter," Ben-Ya'ish told the host. Although there has been some progress on fortifying schools and community centers, there is no adequate solution to the qassam problem as of yet. Ben-Ya'ish complained that she has had enough of the offers of free vacation to Eilat - "I arrived here in April 1956, and I don't intend to leave." She asked repeatedly for a "safe room," which many of the buildings in the city apparently lack.
It is only a matter of time before a qassam kills a Sderot resident again. When that happens, it will be hard for Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, who lives in Sderot, and the prime minister to ignore the public pressure for a more wide-ranging military response. The plans for an extended military operation in Gaza are ready. Olmert has so far resisted the calls for such an action. It is not at all clear how successful it would be, but the pressure is mounting. Responsibility for the latest rocket attacks was claimed by the Islamic Jihad. It comes in the wake of an American list of confidence-building measures that proposed a plan by which the PA would crack down on the rocket launches. The proposals, which alarmed the Israeli government (they included calls to remove a number of roadblocks deemed essential for security reasons) and which the Hamas government has firmly rejected seems to suffer from a deficit of realism, although it sounded great on paper.