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Rivlin visits south, apologizes that rest of Israel sometimes neglects it

A day after first mortar shell fired from Gaza since summer conflict, president says he ’empathizes’ with rocket-battered locals

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin meets with families from the Eshkol Regional Council on September 17, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/Flash90)
Israeli president Reuven Rivlin meets with families from the Eshkol Regional Council on September 17, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/Flash90)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke to farmers and residents on Wednesday morning in the Eshkol Regional Council, a sea of communities that border the Gaza Strip.

The president, who succeeded Shimon Peres in July, hailed the tenacity of the region’s inhabitants and offered contrite words on behalf of the government: “We always empathize, but sometimes don’t give it sufficient attention, except when the conflict is imposed on all of Israel.”

“Many times, we’ve committed a grievous sin, as we kept quiet when you stood under a daily threat, and we thought that the State of Israel could handle this threat, but we later discovered that there will be no quiet in Tel Aviv so long as there is no quiet in [regional kibbutz] Nir Oz.”

Rivlin praised the farmers in the area for their resilience in the face of the 50-day Israel-Hamas conflict, during which Hamas fired 4,600 rockets at Israel, most of them at the south. Alongside the direct threat and the frequent work stoppages due to the countless rocket barrages, many foreign laborers left the area for safer agricultural fields in the north.

The former veteran Likud Knesset member also related to a mortar shell that struck the border fence in the region on Tuesday, saying that he was sure terrorists organizations within the strip understood the potential repercussions of such actions. The projectile was the first fired by terrorists in Gaza since the ceasefire that concluded Operation Protective Edge took effect on August 26.

According to Israeli news site NRG, sources within the defense establishment said Hamas had communicated to Israel through mediation channels that it is still committed to the ceasefire and that a rogue cell behind the mortar fire was arrested.

Several residents from the region voiced a bleak lack of surprise over Tuesday’s incident, and some complained that the IDF had not fired back. “Unfortunately we have gotten used to this and it is not surprising at all… [It seems that people] forget that the ceasefire is just a stage, and all of these wars have historically come after a [short-term peace] agreement.” Adi Pauker, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri, said.

Eshkol Regional Council Chairman Haim Yalin echoed Pauker’s sentiments while emphasizing the importance of keeping the peace: “We have the most powerful army in the world. We should not be afraid to negotiate… and bring peace to the border communities and the south. We expect the Israeli government to act to bring quiet area with the same determination that the soldiers fought with.”

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