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Israelis Pay Solidarity Visit to Town Battered by Palestinian Rockets

Thousands of Israelis have rallied in small town that has been the target of Palestinian rockets. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the Israeli government is facing mounting public pressure to take decisive military action in the Gaza Strip to halt the rocket fire.

A convoy of hundreds of cars arrived in Israel's southern town of Sderot for a solidarity visit on Friday. Sderot has been hard hit by Palestinian rockets fired almost daily from nearby Gaza and residents have accused the government and army of failing to protect them.

So some 10,000 Israelis came from all over the country to do their pre-Sabbath shopping and give a boost to the people of Sderot and its battered economy. It was a rare sight in the town, where many businesses have closed down because of the security situation.

A Sderot resident identified as Ruth spoke on Israel Radio.

"They [are] coming to the stores and buying food, clothes, everything that they can to be pleased and happy with us," she said. "And it's a happy day."

The visit reflects growing public anger over the rocket attacks and the government's failure to put an end to them.

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal said the town is not alone. Moyal said he hopes the solidarity visit will pressure the government to send the army into Gaza and end the rocket attacks once and for all.

A poll shows that 67 percent of Israelis want the army to launch a large-scale ground offensive in Gaza, while only 25 percent are opposed.

Nevertheless, the government is reluctant to invade heavily-populated Gaza, fearing high casualties among Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. That also worries the United States and European Union, which have urged Israel to avoid an escalation in Gaza.