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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 08:42 GMT
Israelis on the frontline with Gaza
By Raffi Berg
BBC News website, Netiv Haasara

Moira Dror
Moira says village residents suffer like neighbouring Palestinians
When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, life for the residents of the southern Israeli village of Netiv Haasara changed overnight.

Bordering Gaza, Netiv was formerly neighbours with a cluster of Jewish settlements, but their disappearance meant the village now became the closest community in Israel to the Gaza Strip.

The village is just 400 metres (1,300ft) away from the edge of the Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya, and the impact on the village was felt immediately.

"We could see the Palestinians celebrating, night after night, for four nights, shooting wildly in the air and starting fires," said Moira Dror from her home just yards from the Gaza perimeter.

"Hundreds of Palestinian kids would come up to the fence and throw stones at the soldiers in the village and there was nothing they could do."

More disconcerting for Moira though was a new sight on the road to the beach formerly used by Netiv residents and settlers - that of Palestinian militants in jeeps, wearing masks and clutching guns.

Concrete walls

But it isn't only changes on the Palestinian side of the border which has transformed life for the village residents - the withdrawal has meant a phalanx of security measures have had to be introduced, turning this tranquil, coastal oasis into a quasi-military garrison and fortress.


At the southern edge of the village, a car park has been converted into an army base and tanks now sit yards from back doors.

An electric fence has been erected to stop infiltration attempts from Gaza, while three huge concrete walls have been built to shield residents from potential Palestinian snipers.

"We hate what's happened here," said Moira. "We get woken up every night at one o'clock when the tanks start rolling and we're deafened by the sonic booms when Israeli fighter jets fly overhead. Whatever they suffer in Beit Lahiya, we suffer here too because we're so close."

It is this proximity which has made the village highly vulnerable to Qassam rocket attacks, a favoured weapon of Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"The concrete walls can't stop rockets," said Moira. "Wherever Israel goes into action in the West Bank, that's a warning sign because we know the Palestinians will retaliate by firing rockets at us."

'Red Dawn'

Netiv Haasara has been struck repeatedly over the past three years, but has suffered only one fatality as a result.

Nufar Margalit
A Qassam rocket fell through the roof of Nufar Margalit's house
In August this year a young girl from out of town who was staying with her boyfriend in the village was killed when a rocket hit his house.

Earlier this month, after a period of calm, Palestinian militants unleashed another barrage of Qassams - this time hitting a house across the road, narrowly missing 18-year-old Nufar Margalit.

"I was in my computer room," recalled Nufar, "when I heard the 'Red Dawn! Red Dawn!' alert coming from the loudspeaker outside. I ran out the room and less than five seconds later the rocket came through the ceiling where I had been sitting.

"The whole house shook and it is a miracle that I am alive," she said.

Peace hopes

It is a situation which has left Moira and her husband, Gil, wanting to move away after 23 years in the village.

"We would leave if the government offered us compensation - but who would buy our house? We are like the settlers who want to leave the West Bank - but the difference is this is Israel!" she said.

Though the village has become part of Israel's new 'frontline', the Drors support the withdrawal from Gaza.

Formerly settlers themselves from the Sinai, conquered by Israel in 1967, the couple were relocated to Netiv Haasara when they were evicted from the peninsula in 1982 under Israel's peace deal with Egypt.

"We gave the land back for peace and we have no problem with Egypt. The same with Jordan," Moira said.

"You've got to look at the Gaza withdrawal in a positive way - who knows, maybe in a few months or years we will have peace with the Palestinians too."


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