Residents and mayors in southern Israel expressed frustration with their government after returning to their homes late last week, only to find themselves under Hamas rocket fire once again, as fighting resumed over the weekend.
Many Israelis streamed home after Israel and Palestinian factions agreed on a three-day truce starting Tuesday morning, and Home Front Command officials lifted restrictions in a bid to return normalcy to the region.
However, as rocket launches and Israeli airstrikes resumed with the expiration of the truce on Friday morning, southerners once again found themselves under fire.
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi accused Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of failing to bring security to southern Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.
“The renewal of the fire make it clear to anyone who still doubted that Hamas does not feel beaten, and even worse, it has no fear of the IDF,” he said. “This is what happens when the defense minister doesn’t supply the goods and doesn’t bring security to the residents of southern Israel. It can’t be that the minister speaks in lofty terms about how aggressively Israel will respond if Hamas dares renew its fire, but when it happens, we are witnesses to the weak response.”
Some residents who returned to their homes on the border with Gaza were forced to flee again northward as Hamas renewed its rocket fire, the newspaper reported.
“We will stay in the north until the army commits to us that it is totally safe to return home, and when we have a solution to the rockets and the tunnels,” a resident of Kibbutz Erez said.
“I felt that they told us to return for no reason,” Kibbutz Nirim resident Tomer Bar-Gil,10, wrote in a letter published in the popular tabloid. “They told us that we could return to live here, but they actually returned us to an unsafe place.”
On Kibbutz Nahal Oz, about half the community’s residents returned during the ceasefire, but over the weekend, some warned their neighbors still abroad not to bother coming back, Channel 2 reported Sunday.
Haim Yalin, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said that 10 missiles had hit Eshkol since the end of the ceasefire, bringing life once again to a standstill.
“Children are stuck in their homes, in protected rooms, instead of running around on the grass and enjoying themselves in swimming pools during summer vacation…The government of Israel cannot shirk its responsibility to protect the security of its residents. The prime minister and defense minister promised that they would not accept fire on Israel. This isn’t a political promise, this is a basic responsibility of a government toward residents of a democratic state.”
After Israel agreed to the truce following 29 days of fighting, pulling back troops and saying they had destroyed the threat of cross-border tunnel raids, many in the south expressed misgivings, leading government and military officials to assure them that all was safe.
Davidi, Sderot’s mayor, said it wasn’t clear why the IDF had let thousands of soldiers head home on leave while they were in a temporary ceasefire. “The enemy sees this move, interprets it at cowardice, renews its fire, and embarrasses us,” he said.
Last Wednesday, IDF chief Benny Gantz assured the citizens of the south that better days were ahead of them: “Indeed, there was a hot summer here,” Gantz said, referring to the tumultuous experiences of many in the south. “[But] autumn will come after. Rain will wash away the dust upon the tanks. The fields will turn green, and the south will redden, red in the positive sense of the word, anemones, flowers and stability will be here, and they will be here for very many years to come.”