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SDEROT UNDER FIRE

Arkadi Gaydamak: 'I Will Send Buses To Evacuate Children & Mothers From Sderot'

Sderot Residents: 'Three Cheers For Gaydamak, The Government Has Abandoned Us To Qassam Rockets'

Israeli Government Ponders Reaction To Massive Palestinian Rocketing Of Sderot

As anticipated by IsraCast, the bloody Palestinian infighting between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip has spilled over into Israel. The Palestinians have launched over 30 Qassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot apparently in an attempt to deflect the focus from their internal feud that killed at least 15 Palestinians on Tuesday, May 15th. The rockets are terrorizing the children, women and men. In the initial bombardment, one woman was seriously injured and dozens more were lightly hurt and suffered from shock. While the Israeli government considers what to do, Jewish-Russian philanthropist Arkadi Gaydamak has stepped in with his own private solution.

How should Israel react to the massive Palestinian rocketing of the town of Sderot? At the time of writing, more Qassams have crashed into Sderot terrorizing the children, women and men who have been ordered to remain in their bomb shelters. Some parents have called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to immediately evacuate children from the town. The rain of rockets has turned Sderot into a ghost town - more than 30 rockets hit Sderot within twenty- four hours . Miraculously, only one woman was seriously wounded, dozens more were lightly hurt and are suffering from shock. Sderot has been targeted by Qassam rockets for seven years. Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz held urgent consultations but apparently decided not to decide until Sunday's regular cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile in a dramatic development, Arkadi Gaydamak, the Russian Jewish philanthropist, has told Israel Radio that he will send buses to Sderot to evacuate children and their mothers. Gaydamak also said that he is in contact with construction companies about swiftly building needed bomb shelters in Sderot. During last summer's war in the north, Gaydamak also organized a massive evacuation of residents in Galilee who were rocketed by Hezbollah for 34 days. The project embarrassed the Olmert government then as it will now. How should Israel react in the present situation? What in the eyes of the international community would be an 'appropriate' response? More often than not, when Israel responds to Arab provocations, whether against Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, it is censured for its 'disproportionate' reaction. But how would Russia, France and the other members of the E.U. and the U.N. react under similar circumstances? Would they exercise the 'restraint' they preach to Israel while referring to relevant international law?

Bodies of Palestinian Fatah members who were killed by Hamas

As anticipated the rocket bombardment is an attempt to deflect Palestinian public opinion. It came amid the bloodiest day in the Hamas-Fatah infighting. At least 15 Palestinians were killed, most were members of the Presidential Guard which is linked to Fatah. Firing machine guns, mortars and rockets, Hamas raided a Fatah training camp. Earlier in the day, Fatah had killed a Hamas member. Eight of the Fatah fighters were killed when Hamas ambushed a Fatah police jeep near the Karni border crossing with Israel. Palestinian eye witnesses said the vehicle turned over after being riddled by machine gun fire. Hamas gunmen then approached and shot dead all the occupants at point blank range. Two Fatah members in the area apparently tried to flee to the Israeli side. However, believing them to be terrorists, IDF troops opened fire killing one.

Israel's dilemma - should the IDF be ordered to launch a punitive operation aimed at halting the Qassam rocketing or at least reducing the intensity? This, some argue, would play into the hands of Hamas and Fatah and help them deescalate their feud which is heading out of control. But on the other hand the residents of Sderot are being asked to pay the price and certainly the government has an obligation to take necessary action to protect its citizens. After Winograd criticized Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz for acting rashly in the Second Lebanon War, they will look carefully before they leap. Therefore, if the rocketing dies down in the coming hours, the Israeli response will be low key and within the 'proportionality' that Israel's critics set for the Jewish state. But if the Palestinian provocations cross Israel's red lines in blood, the government will have no choice but to order the IDF to take off the gloves.

David Essing

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