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Palestinian Rockets Make Life a Gamble in Israeli City


Every day is a gamble for the residents of the small Israeli city of Sderot . The city sits on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip and nearly every day Palestinian militants target Sderot with small rockets called Qassams. The rocket attacks so far have killed nine civilians in Sderot, including one person Wednesday. As VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Sderot, residents say their city will not survive if nothing is done to stop the attacks.

Nitza Dahan's house needs work these days. Last month a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck her house just as Nitza and her four children were sitting down to dinner.

Nitza has been through this before. Eight months ago another Qassam rocket fired from Gaza struck her house. Nitza says no one likes being a target, "I feel like we are being persecuted this is the second time it has happened. The government doesn't do anything. I want them to do something. My kids don't want to come here and there is nothing I can do."

If Nitza and her family leave Sderot they will join about 7,000 others who have fled the city. The people who live in this house have left for good. Sderot's population has dropped from 24,000 to about 17,000 in the past few years.

Now Sderot residents like these who have set up a tent in Tel Aviv, are protesting their situation in cities all over Israel.

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal is so desperate he says he would be willing to talk with Hamas to stop the rocket attacks. He says something must be done, "The government has two options; peace or war. But they are not doing peace or war, this is the problem. That is why we are stuck seven years in this situation. If they have any political solution please bring it, but if they do not please fight. But they cannot do nothing. This is the problem with Sderot."

So far the Israeli government has ruled out a large-scale military invasion of nearby Gaza to protect Sderot -- fearing high casualties on both sides. The government has installed an early-warning system that gives people about 20 seconds to find shelter but nobody feels safe here.

This is about the only place many residents feel safe: Shimon Buskila's Shufan Hair Salon. Shimon has even created a new hair style for Sderot -- the Qassam cut.

"My business has not been damaged because my business is to make people feel better. So when people are not feeling good they come to me and I make them feel better because I give them a good cut," Buskila said.

But many other businesses in Sderot have been hurt and people - especially young people are leaving the city. Those who remain come here for their essentials, but they do not stay long. They quickly buy what they need and then head home -- to wait for the next rocket attack.

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