As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert engages in what may amount to peace talks with PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are doing everything possible not just to harm Israelis physically, but to also capitalise on political uncertainty in a hope to stall all prospects of progress by bringing down the government.
Yesterday was the start of the school year in Israel and it has been characterised by debate over whether the Israelis in Sderot would send their kids to school. The parents argued that Israel has not done enough to protect their kids from incessant Kassam fire but the government argued that the schools were safe enough.
This played nicely into the Palestinian hands. Yesterday Palestinian terrorists fired 9 Kassam rockets into Sderot, including one that landed outside a day care centre for young kids. 12 school children were treated for shock. The Jerusalem Post reported that Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility saying that it was a "present for the new school year."
On my recent trip to Israeli we were lucky enough to visit Sderot.
Sderot is a small working class city and lies just 1 km away from the Gaza strip. Most of its residents are of North African origion, mainly from Morocco.
Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada Sderot has been the target of thousands of Kassam rocket attacks. Since the Israeli disengagement from Gaza over 3000 Kassams have been fired into Sderot.
We arrived on a stifling hot and humid summer's day to find out that earlier that morning a Kassam was fired and landed in an empty field some distance away. Most of the Kassams land in empty fields. Our guide compared them to massive mosquitos, constantly biting away causing a more psychological than physical damage. However, the few that do hit their targets are certainly not minor mosquito bites. They kill, dismember and terrify.
Here's a shot of Northern Gaza from a hill in Sderot. The green area in the distance is Beit Hanoun – the area from where most Kassams are launched. (You may remember the tragic incident last year when IDF shells responding to Kassam attacks inadvertently killed 18 Palestinians in Beit Hanoun.) Beit Hanoun is just 3 km from Israel. The surveillance blimp overtop is used as an early warning measure for Kassam launches. Once a Kassam is launched the siren screams and Israelis have between 10 and 20 seconds to find a shelter.
Here's a zoomed in shot from our Sderot hilltop. The second dusty road in the distance is the border between Gaza and Israel. This is the north eastern section of Gaza. The small map on the left shows you where Beit Hanoun is.
A memorial for two Israelis toddlers (4 and 2 years) who were killed by a Kassam that landed in their front yard (more about this memorial here). Our guide was the first person to find the bodies of the children.
We visited a police station in Sderot where they display the remains of hundreds of Kassams that have been fired. Over three thousand have been fired since Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip.
Below are some shots of the twisted remains of Kassams along with a description of their structure.
This house took a direct hit by a Kassam and is being repaired.
One of the many shelters that litter Sderot. The structure was not designed to be a shelter. It was actually designed for huge water tunnels. The shelter will provide protection if a Kassam lands in its vicinity but it is useless in the event (however low the probability) of a direct hit.
Inside the shelter. The image looks a bit distorted because I used the Photoshop clone tool to clone out some folks who don't want to appear in a photo on some arb blog.
Peering out through the shelter.
Update at 05/09/2007
Here's a video of the Kassam that landed outside the day care centre. You can feel the horror of the residents as they run for cover. Click the play button.
Previous Picture Tours at IAS
- Ethiopian Olim arriving in Israel - From Ancient Tradition to Modern Israel
- Bringing calm to a suburb of Jerusalem during the intifada -Bringing Order to Giloh
- The strategic importance of the settlement town Alfei Menashe
- Visiting the settlers who were removed from Gaza - From Gush Katif to Nitzan
- Western wall tunnel tours
- Inside Mugabe's Zimbabwe