Many Sderot residents unable to reach shelters on time
Resident: It is impossible to raise children in this region, they should evacuate us.
A little before eight o'clock in the western Negev and the Color Red alert sounds in the background. The bus is just arriving at the Shkamim Maoz school. The children and driver rush off the bus and run for cover in a reinforced bus station. Three pupils - frozen by anxiety - are stuck in the middle of the street, screaming, unable to move. Two adults pick them up and carry them into the shelter.
In the next half hour, about 10 Qassam rockets land on Sderot. One strikes the Cohen home, not far from the Shkamim Maoz school, inflicting extensive damage. Bus driver Eli Cohen was not at home at the time of the strike, but his mother and sister were sheltering in the reinforced room. Eli got a phone call and rushed home.
About the same time, a rocket strikes the entrance road to the Hollandia furniture factory in the city, damaging the structure. Hollandia has been preparing to move the factory out of the battered southern city for a few months, despite reinforcing the structure three months ago.
During the course of the day, more than twenty Qassams fall on the city. At 5:50 P.M., Alon Davidi of the Committee for a Secure Sderot organizes a protest. Residents burn tires and two are arrested for disturbing the peace.
Also at about 8 A.M., a Qassam lands at Shaar Hanegev junction near Sapir College. The kibbutzim in the Shaar Hanegev regional council are also battered by dozens of rockets throughout the day. Even so, two hours later, Sapir students are sitting on the grass enjoying the sunshine. Students in line at the college cafeteria discuss the menu and only five Bedouin women are talking about Qassams.
But the guard at the college entrance - a Sderot resident - says the entire region should be evacuated. "It is impossible to raise children in this region, they should evacuate us," he says, recounting the morning's events. "Two students reached the campus gates this morning, heard the alert and fled homeward. Students don't want to be here."
Nonetheless, the college has doubled enrollment in the past seven years and college administrators say that during registration for the 2008-9 school year, they are receiving 50 to 70 applications every week. President Ze'ev Zahor tries to look strong, but admits the situation is not easy. In the evening hours, Qassams land right in the academic complex and one woman is treated for shock.
Near the southern Gaza Strip, in the Eshkol regional council, a mortar hits near a 52-year-old ficus tree outside the kibbutz dining room. A Polish volunteer calmly reconstructs the strike. "I was just on my break from the cafeteria work," Vitek says, indicating the deep hole near the tree. There is no warning before a mortar strike. Vitek heard the Color Red Qassam alert for the first time two days ago after a month and a half on the kibbutz. He says he looked around and people just kept eating. "But it makes sense. What would they do? Where would they go?" Vitek asks.