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About 5,000 residents of the south, mostly elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, live in wood or plaster houses that lack proper reinforced rooms or reasonable access to public shelters. In many cases, they were left at home to fend for themselves during Operation Cast Lead and the rocket barrages on their towns.

After the first Gulf War in 1991, the government began requiring that new residential construction include reinforced spaces, yet many of these residents live in buildings constructed after that date. Then-housing minister Ariel Sharon was behind the homes, which he considered a fast and efficient solution to the housing shortage created by the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. As a result, about 5,000 wooden homes were approved for Be'er Sheva, Ofakim, Netivot and elsewhere in the south.

During the recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the Home Front Command gave occupants of substandard housing the same instructions as people caught outdoors during a rocket attack lie on the ground, cover their heads and hope for the best. That's exactly what Nina and Michael Sherman, elderly Be'er Sheva residents, did.

Nina tried to go one step further by covering herself and her husband, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, with a thick fur coat they brought with them when they immigrated 18 years ago. During the recent fighting in Gaza, a house similar to the Shermans' was destroyed by a Grad rocket in Netivot. There is a public shelter 300 meters from the Shermans' home, but they are too infirm to reach it in the 45-second warning provided by the siren.

75-year-old Michael Tomshin lives in the same Be'er Sheva neighborhood, along with his wife, who has Alzheimer's disease. He never thought that his city and other towns in the south would be subject to rocket attacks.

"Most of the people who live in these houses are elderly immigrants in their 70s and 80s," he said. "They fought the Nazis, and some went through the Holocaust, and others fled the Chernobyl nuclear accident and came to Israel. Why doesn't the state give us even minimal protection?"

In response, government authorities have pointed fingers at one another. The IDF Spokesman and Home Front Command noted that by law, civilians are responsible for constructing shelters and reinforced spaces in homes.

"During the Cast Lead military operation, because of the inadequacy of the protection in some areas under rocket fire, the defense establishment went beyond the letter of the law to at least partially address the problem, in accordance with priorities that took into consideration the extent of the threat. This does not, however, affect the legal responsibility, which is first and foremost the citizen's," they stated.