Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Support, fear on the ground in Israel

Tuesday, December 30th 2008


JERUSALEM - The fear factor in Israel depends on where you live. In vulnerable towns just outside Gaza, it's high; in Jerusalem, some50 miles away, not so much.

Israelis are going about their day-to-day lives as if there were no war and most - 80%, the most recent poll found - support the operation to crush Hamas.

We live under the possibility of a terror attack at any time, so really the only place where the fears are heightened are the close-to-Gaza cities where rockets have rained down for years.

For many, "Operation Cast Lead" is long overdue.

The residents of Sderot, the most-bombed place on Earth for the last two years, are sick of running for cover every half-hour as Hamas and its fanatical allies lob another Qassam rocket into their sleepy suburb.

"Many people have left, but we have nowhere to run to," said Odelia Ben-Porat, a 32-year-old mother of three small children who watched from her window recently as a rocket landed in the parking lot of her building.

"Now we feel that someone cares about us, that they are finally doing something. It couldn't continue the way it was."

Since 2001, 3,984 rockets and 3,943 mortar shells have been launched at Israel from Gaza, many of them at Sderot.

Egypt brokered a truce last June, but in the six months of the supposed lull, Palestinians fired 223 rockets and 139 mortars from Gaza.

Last week, the day the ceasefire ended, they launched 80 rockets and shells in one day.

In Ashkelon, 10 miles north of the Gaza Strip, grandmother and kindergarten teacher Geula Levy felt a massive boom Monday morning and emerged to find a Hamas rocket had landed directly opposite her home, killing a construction worker.

"I have been shaking since the morning. It's terrifying," Levy said. "I won't let any of my children into the street. I'm scared even to go out to the shops."

Still, she supports the Israeli military operation in Gaza.

"It's enough already. We warned them; we begged them to stop. We gave them every opportunity," she said. "Hamas just doesn't care. ... I really feel for the mother in Gaza who lost her five children. I wish we didn't have to do this."

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