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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Bunkers reach boot camp too late
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Zikkim, southern Israel

Parents of Israeli soldiers gather at the gate of Zikkim army base
Many of the soldiers phoned their parents after the attack

Outside the Zikkim army centre Israeli relatives are waiting anxiously for news of their sons in the base, which was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza overnight, injuring at least 69 soldiers.

Many of them would have been here anyway, coming to pick up the teenage recruits after three weeks of basic training.

Huge flat-bed trucks have been driving past carrying concrete reinforcements for the base.

Each of the 10-wheeler trucks can only carry one of these enormous structures, which are shaped like three sides of a rectangle.

It is hard to know how exactly the concrete structures will be used, but they would be high enough to go over the soldiers' tents.

For the families waiting by the gate, however, these reinforcements are coming a day too late.

Close to Gaza

Through the chicken wire surrounding the camp you can see canvas tents where some of the soldiers would sleep and eat - accommodation that offered no protection from the rocket.

Map

Since all the soldiers have mobile phones, many of the parents were called by their children shortly after the attack. Though many were phoning to say they were all right, the calls have caused great tension among the parents.

The base is very close to the Gaza Strip. Overhead, floats a large reconnaissance balloon the army uses to watch movements over the border fence.

It is within easy range of the rockets - one of a string of Israeli locations around Gaza that are frequently targeted by the Palestinian militants.

Unlike Israel's sophisticated arsenal, the rockets are crude and unguided. But they are designed to kill and are fired so frequently that they do cause casualties.

This has been the largest number of injuries sustained by Israel in a Palestinian militant attack.

Effective response

The soldiers who were coming in seemed fairly fatalistic about having to do their basic training in the camp.

"Yeah, I know we're in range of the rockets, but what can you do?" asked one soldier.

The question is what can Israel do to counter these attacks.

The consensus here, at least among the parents who are waiting to be reunited with the sons, says that Israel will hit hard and deep into Gaza - at some point.

But opinions are divided about how effective that will be.

Some analysts say the only thing that will stop the rocket attacks in the end will be for the two sides to talk.


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