Monday, April 14, 2008

Sderot: Rocket Town

Below are a few pictures from a quick Saturday visit I took with Hannah to Sderot, the southern Israeli town that has been hammered for years by small-warhead missile fire from Gaza. The missiles, called Qassem, after the legendary Muslim Brotherhood guerilla fighter Izz ad-Din al-Qassem, pack around 10 lb. charges. Sderot is becoming a standard stop for VIPs and foreign tourists. John McCain passed through a few weeks ago. Former US President Jimmy Carter visited Sderot today, another stop on his 9-day tour of the region. He was snubbed here by the Israeli PM and FM (she was in Qatar of all places), but did meet with President Peres.

Sderot is a mere 50 minute drive down Route 4 from Tel Aviv. As we passed by Ashqelon, we could spot in the sky the floating dirigible set over the northern Gaza strip and used by the IDF to give the earliest possible warning of a rocket launch, and help identify launching sites (it is the tiny dot in the middle of the sky). The town of Sderot is now dotted with newly installed on-street reinforced shelters. With a large religious contingent in the town of 20,000, there wasn't much happening on a Saturday afternoon. Even though the day before the IDF had made a ground incursion into Gaza, killing 8, there was no missile attack on Saturday or through today.

Driving on a residential street, we thought we had come across a home ruined by rocket fire. It wasn't, but a local resident steered us to the real deal. We also saw not a few "For Sale" signs in front of intact homes. Reports state that as many as 20% of the population have left the town.

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