By Anav Silverman Tazpit News Agency Sderot’s first rocket-proof railway station was inaugurated on Tuesday, December 24. The periphery city, located about 2.5 kilometers (one mile) away from the Gaza Strip, will now have a direct access line to Tel…
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Israel launched its first airstrike on Gaza since the Egyptian-mediated truce ended November’s eight-day bout of fighting.
IAF air strike in Gaza
Israel launched its first airstrike on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday since the Egyptian-mediated truce ended November’s eight-day bout of fighting.
“Occupation planes bombarded an open area in northern Gaza, there were no wounded,” the Hamas Interior Ministry said in a statement.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed there had been a strike in Gaza, but gave no further details.
The airstrike came in response to the firing of a projectile from Gaza, which exploded on Tuesday in an open area of southern Israel’s Eshkol region. The explosion did not cause any injuries.
It’s 7:30 am and Sarah Haziza is beginning the day, like countless other Jewish mothers in households across the world, with Passover cleaning. The floor is full of soapy water, when suddenly the 47-year-old Sderot mother hears the rocket siren warning of an incoming Gaza rocket. “My youngest daughter was still sleeping so I ran to get her,” Haziza told Tazpit News Agency. “I picked her up and was careful not to slip on the water, as we headed out to our shelter.”
It was during the second rocket alarm that Haziza hesitated whether to go into the shelter again. But she did, carrying her sleepy eight-year-old to the cement shelter once more. A few seconds later, Haziza heard a very loud explosion. “I knew then, that the rocket had landed here,” she said.
It was the second time that Haziza’s home has been hit in recent years. As we sit in her kitchen, US President Barack Obama can be heard on the TV, speaking chromatically to the occasional loud applause in his address in Jerusalem , about an hour’s drive to Sderot. “We are not interesting enough,” said Haziza as she glances at the screen. “No one died, no one was physically injured [in the rocket attacks]. But the fact that my family will not do the Pesach seder at home because of this rocket bothers none of the politicians,” said Haziza.
An updated schedule for U.S. President Obama’s visit to Israel indicates that he will visit the PA twice, but not an Iron Dome field unit
By David Lev
Obama warned of the effect steep cuts would have on the economy
An updated schedule for U.S. President Barak H. Obama’s visit to Israel next week indicates that he will visit Palestinian Authority-controlled areas twice – but that he will apparently not visit an Iron Dome installation in the field, as had been planned.
The Iron Dome visit had been set for Friday morning. A schedule released by the White House last week has Obama visiting an Iron Dome installation, where he would receive an in-depth explanation on the technology and how it was used in the recent Pillar of Defense operation to deflect rockets fired at Israeli population centers by Gaza Arab terrorists.
But a new schedule released Monday has Obama visiting Bethlehem during the same period that he was to be visiting the Iron Dome installation. In Bethlehem, Obama is set to visit the Church of the Nativity. Instead of being taken to see an Iron Dome installation, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said, Obama will be shown one after he lands at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.
Obama is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, March 20, at about noon. After a welcoming ceremony – and, apparently, a tour of the Iron Dome system – Obama will meet with President Shimon Peres. At about 5:30 PM, Obama will meet in private with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The meeting is set to last about two hours, and afterwards the two leaders will dine together.
By Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency
It’s Thursday evening in Kiryat Malachi and the city of nearly 21,000 residents is strangely quiet. The usually busy city center is empty of people—most of the stores and restaurants have been shut down. There are no high school students loitering around, and no elderly folks smoking hooka or drinking black coffee in the kiosks. No music blasting anywhere. Signs that indicate a recent rocket attack has occurred.
Earlier in the morning, a Gaza rocket slammed into the city, hitting an apartment building and killing three civilians fleeing for cover in the stairwell of their building.
The effects of that rocket strike on the city were felt hours later. A pregnant woman with her husband could be seen sitting outside of their apartment building, listening to news on their car radio. “I’m not going to be able to run down three flights of stairs every time the rocket siren goes off,” she explained to Tazpit News Agency. “I told my husband that we’re sitting outside near the shelter for the rest of the evening.”
Further down the street, Moshe Zakuto, has just arrived home after a long day of work. He and his wife, Juliet have been living in Kiryat Malachi for over 50 years. “We will never leave our home here,” said Zakuto, who originally immigrated to Israel from Istanbul in 1961. “We have nowhere to go and even if leaving was an option, we wouldn’t do it,” he says.
There are three generations of Zakutos living in Kiryat Malachi. Moshe and Juliet also have grandchildren who live in the city. “I came to Israel when I was 17 and I served in the army,” Zakuto says proudly. “All my children have served, and so have my grandkids.”
“We love this country, and we love this land,” adds Juliet, originally from Fez, Morocco. “The rockets will never scare us away.”
Juliet admits that she takes a very rational approach to the rocket attacks. “My kids are more worried than I am,” she explains with a smile. “I know that some people get more hysterical and rightly so in response to a rocket attack. But I believe that we will get through this difficult period, and I hope– without too much trauma to people’s souls.”
But about four blocks away from the Zakuto’s home, for the inhabitants living in the apartment building that was struck by the rocket earlier, the reality looks bleaker.
Entering the apartment building, six memorial candles can be seen lit at the bottom of the stairwell, lit in memory of the three residents who were killed trying to take cover from the rocket as the siren sounded. The victims included a 26-year old mother about to give birth, Mirah Scharf. A Chabad outreach emissary in India, Mirah left behind her husband, who was wounded by shrapnel in his head, and three young children including their four-year-old son who was also injured in the rocket attack. The two other victims were Aharon Smadja, 49, who also left behind three young children and 24-year-old Yitzchak Amsallem. In addition to the fatalities, two people were seriously injured and two infants sustained light wounds.
For neighbor Chana Spektor, a mother of three children, who only a year ago moved to Kiryat Malachi from the Ukraine with her husband, where the couple served as Chabad emissaries, the rocket attack “was shocking and terrifying.”
“I could never imagine that life in Kiryat Malachi would be so dangerous,” Spektor told Tazpit News Agency, still in shock. “When I saw the bleeding baby rushed to the ambulance, only then did I realize the extent of the attack.”
“We heard the siren and stayed in the apartment,” explained Spektor. “Our building is full of large families with children and many them came into our apartment when they heard the siren. The entire building shook and glass shattered all over.”
“I can’t believe this happened a week before my son’s bar mitzvah,” she further adds. “All the invitations that I was supposed to send out today just flew everywhere and now I can’t find them.”
One of the most frustrating elements of the current escalation for Spektor has been the international response. “Russia strongly condemned Israel for its defensive operation in Gaza today, but had little to say to Hamas,” she said.
“We are trying to survive here,” Spektor emphasizes. “But I realize that if you don’t actually come to Israel and see the impact of these rockets, you can’t understand our reality. That’s why Putin makes those remarks.”
As I make my way back down the heavily damaged building, an elderly man leaves his apartment and walks slowly down the blood-stained stairs. He looks sadly at the memorial candles at the bottom, and whispers a few words, and then continues on to the synagogue to pray. Meanwhile, outside the apartment building, soldiers, security personnel and local Israeli press continue to buzz around, as tired residents in the city prepare for a long night ahead.
Anti-missile battery to remain in Tel Aviv metropolitan area for several days for training purposes Yoav Zitun
Israel’s Air Force deployed an Iron Dome battery near the Tel Aviv Metropolitan area on Wednesday. Previously deployed in the Gaza vicinity area and Eilat, the battery has been placed in the area for training purposes.
The innovative anti-missile system, whose developers recently won the Israel Defense Prize, continues to travel the country. After being deployed in more volatile regions such as Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, it is now arriving at central Israel.
Recently, it has been exposed that despite the great praise the system has been receiving, the soldiers operating it have been complaining of tough conditions on the ground. They lack permanent accommodations, warm meals and other basic provisions.
Anav Silverman Tazpit News Agency
Over 100 rockets fired from Gaza struck southern Israel this past week, with 65 of those rockets clobbering Israeli communities in the northwestern Negev in a single day, on Wednesday.
In the worst of the rocket escalations, a home in the Sdot Negev Regional Council was directly hit by a rocket on Wednesday, with the mother and her child home at the time. Miraculously, they were able to make it to the bomb shelter within seconds of the rocket striking their home and were not injured. “My wife and son were saved by a miracle,” said the father of the family to Ma’ariv, who was at work during the attack.
Children on their way to their last day of school were also miraculously saved when they mounted a school bus, just minutes before a rocket struck across their bus stop on a kibbutz in the Eshkol Regional Council.
“This has been a very stressful time for us,” said Ronit Minaker to Tazpit News Agency, a spokeswoman for the Eshkol Regional Council, which is comprised of 31 communities located along the border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. “You hear the sounds of war everywhere and there is this feeling of constant pressure on your mind and in your body. You’re always watching yourself, thinking where you will take cover the next time the siren goes off,” Minaker explained.
“Not everyone here has a bomb shelter. The worst is for the families. There are parents who lay over their children to protect them when the siren sounds.”
Minaker points out that there are times when there is no Color Red siren—the warning sound system which allows people approximately 15 seconds to find cover–which means that Gaza rockets will strike without warning. “In one of the Eshkol communities this week, there fell a barrage of six rockets with no siren. It was mazal [luck] that none of those rockets directly hit a home. But countless people were left in shock, including several women,” said Minaker.
One Eshkol residents who is currently recovering from the shock of a sniper attack that took place last week, is Max Yadgar of Kibbutz Nir Oz.
Yadgar, a farmer, was on his tractor plowing fields about 400 meters from the Gaza border, when a Palestinian sniper opened fire on him Thursday, June 14.
In an exclusive interview, Yadgar described to Tazpit News Agency how the sniper shot him above his head and right under his seat. Glass shattered everywhere leaving Yadgar with just a scratch on his face.
“I crawled down from the tractor and hid behind the big wheel for protection, waiting for 15 minutes until IDF troops came get me,” recalls Yadgar.
“It was a very scary experience and I’m still not completely past it. I took a few days off and time has been the best medicine so far. I went to a synagogue and prayed. All I have is a scratch on my face from this attack but inside I’m rattled.”
However, Yadgar says he will return to the fields next week, although he will not work in the same field where he was attacked. A husband and father of four children, Yadgar concludes that he will “plow the fields further away from the Gaza border for now.”
Located in the northwestern part of the Negev, the Eshkol Regional Council was established in 1951, and was later named after Israel’s third Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol in 1969. The communities of Eshkol serve as strategic outposts, supporting the IDF in the defense of Israel’s Southern Front during war. Made up 14 kibbutzim, 15 moshavim and two residential communities, there are 12,500 Israelis call Eshkol their home. Today much of the region is engaged in industrial, agricultural and farming activity, producing 50 percent of Israel’s tomatoes and potatoes.
Many farmers like Yadgar have come under Palestinian sniper fire over the past few years. In 2008, the IDF asked farmers from Kibbutz Nir Oz to stop harvesting the potatoes during the day, and to instead conduct the harvest at night in order to lower the risk of sniper attacks.
Despite the challenging conditions, Minaker emphasizes that the people of Eshkol are strong and steadfast. “People aren’t leaving because of the situation, in fact more people are moving to Eshkol. There is a very strong sense of community and a supportive framework here,” she explains.
“We are normal people, we want to live in peace– despite everything we face. At least this current ceasefire will give us a chance to rest and build our resilience for the next rocket escalation,” said Minaker.
According to Noam Bedein, director of Sderot Media Center located in Sderot, which was once targeted weekly by rockets for a decade, the next rocket escalation will come sooner rather than later. “Weapons and rockets from Iran and Libya are constantly being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Of over 1,000 rockets that have been fired at Israel since Operation Cast Lead, there are many of Iranian and Libyan origin. It’s clear that