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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 21:25 GMT
Living in the line of fire
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Sderot

Ofer Kurtzberg
Residents of Sderot say the situation is worsening
Ofer Kurtzberg returned to the town of Sderot from America five days ago where he had been on a year-long teaching programme.

Early this morning after pulling himself from bed, the 24-year-old heard a loud crash a short distance from his house.

The car alarms in the neighbourhood all went off, triggered by the explosion. Then ambulance sirens filled the air.

One 57-year-old Israeli women was killed and a man was injured after they were hit by shrapnel from a rocket fired from the nearby Gaza Strip.

"When I left here 12 months ago it was bad," said Mr Kurtzberg, standing at the site where the rocket landed, a gloomy path running alongside a small woodlands.

"But now I think the situation is growing more desperate.

"The rockets are falling and no-one seems to have a solution."

Homemade rockets

Here in this small Israeli town lying 10km from the Gaza Strip there is growing frustration and fear among its residents at their country's inability stop the Palestinian rockets from landing in their town.

Although there have been extensive Israeli military operations into Gaza since June - in which about 400 Palestinians, a mixture of militants and civilians have been killed - Palestinian militant groups continue to fire the rockets.

These weapons are crude and homemade - and only occasionally kill.

But residents in Sderot talk about living a life under siege.

The sirens - or red dawn, as it is called in Hebrew - signal an imminent rocket attack making people scurry for cover.

Shaul Zeigler
One resident said parts of Gaza should become a 'no-go area'

Mothers talk about their children wetting their beds.

Some residents talk about leaving but say they are unable to sell their houses.

"Who would buy a house here?" said one man.

Most say they want an end to it all.

The Israeli government at the highest level is trying to deal with the problem.

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz has a house in the town and one of his bodyguards was injured in Wednesday's attack.

The minister's neighbour, Shaul Zeigler, 67, said that the Israeli government needs to do more to protect the people.

"Every day we fear it will get worse," said Mr Zeigler sitting in his living room.

Large shards from a blown-out window lie in a heap beside an untouched fish tank.

I think we need to talk to the Palestinians and get some sort of a truce
Orly Sarousi
Sderot student

Like many of the residents in the town, Mr Zeigler wants a large Israeli military action into Gaza that he believes will end the problem once and for all.

"We need to go into Gaza and clear a security buffer," he said.

"We have to make the northern parts of Gaza (the area where the militants fire their rockets from) an effective no-go area."

Military intervention

But only last week, the Israeli army carried out a military operation in Beit Hanoun that left over 79 Palestinians - militants and civilians - dead.

But the rockets keep flying.

Palestinian militants say that they are retaliating against the Israeli killing in the Gaza Strip.

In the Israeli press there has been talk that the Israeli government will order a large- scale ground incursion into the territory.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems wary about a large-scale troop deployment in Gaza again, a territory that Israeli withdrew from September 2005.

But a minority of residents in Sderot believe that the only way to resolve the problem is politically.

"I think we need to talk to the Palestinians and get some sort of a truce.

It's the only way," said Orly Sarousi, 26, and a student at a local college.

"This is what it sounds like living here," she says, whipping her phone out of her pocket and playing a taped recording of a siren blaring.

"We need it to end."




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