Accessibility links

Breaking News

Israeli Civilians Closest to Gaza Face Rocket Barrage

As Israel continues its military operations in Gaza, Hamas is still firing rockets into Israel. Amid the continuing military operations, civilian populations on both sides of the border live in fear.

Medical officials in Gaza say about half of the more than 900 Palestinians who have been killed in the Israeli offensive are civilians. Ten Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, and three Israeli civilians have died in rocket fire.

In Sderot, Israel, though the number of rocket attacks in recent days has dropped, there is still fear. In this VOA exclusive, you will witness the terror of one such attack in the Israeli town closest to the Gaza border.

"This operation is enjoying a very large consensus among the people," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Shlomo Morgan. As we were talking to him about the decline in rocket attacks here in Sderot, an alarm goes off and people start to run.

On average, the citizens of Sderot have about 35 seconds from the sound of the alarm until a rocket's impact. We quickly move into this specially built safe room in the Foreign Ministry Press Center.

"This is how it is now for many many weeks," Morgan said. "But as I told you before, the people this time are determined to support the governments action in order to restore peace and calm in the area."

With smoke on the horizon we quickly jump in our car. Sderot is a town of about 20,000 people in the Western Negev, 1.2 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials say there have been more than 7,000 rocket attacks on the town since 2001.

During those eight years, police here say 24 people have been killed and more than 500 injured.

Nearly everyone here dreads the daily attacks - just as civilians now face similiar fears from military operations across the border in Gaza where the Israeli government has kept out reporters.

On January 11, two rockets were fired. One struck a house, shattering windows and spraying the area with shrapnel. This woman was walking nearby. She collapsed in panic on the street.

David Kadosh, his son and daughter were inside the house. No one was physically hurt. His son shaken and his daughter crying, they were taken away in ambulances. "We were in the house and we heard the siren so we went in the secure room," Kadosh said. "Suddenly were heard a loud explosion and the whole house shook."

At a school across the street, frantic parents arrived to pick-up their children. The rocket had narrowly missed this school, less than a week after Israeli attacks killed 40 people taking shelter in a school in Gaza.

Ten-year-old Diana said students had just taken their seats in an upstairs classroom. "A few minutes later there was the alert, then a big explosion and shock," she said. "And everyone was crying." When asked if she were scared, she says, "Well, I am used to the explosions. We hear them all the time."

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld was quick to remind the international media that this is why the Israeli military went into Gaza. "Each rocket is deadly," Rosenfeld said. "You can see the widespread damage to the building. The distance where we are to a school nearby is just 50 meters. The majority of people around here are going in safe zones, safe areas. Once again, this is the reality of what we are having to deal with on a day to day basis."

As the Israeli military drives deeper into Gaza, local officials here say the rocket attacks on the city have dropped from about 40 to two on this day. For the people of Sderot, that is still two too many.