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"The uncertainty about the future is the hardest thing to bear," says the secretariat chair of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Haim Yelin. A mortar shell landed near the kibbutz again yesterday, lightly wounding an Israel Defense Forces soldier.

Until the pullout from the Gaza Strip, people were hoping the withdrawal would restore the calm in the region, which was disrupted five years ago with the start of the intifada. Now, two and a half months after the pullout, the fire on the communities near Gaza has not stopped, only slowed, and the feeling is grim.

A number of families have left, and others are talking of leaving, especially in the moshav Netiv Ha'asara, where the fire has increased since the disengagement.

Nonetheless, almost all the kibbutzim in the area are building neighborhoods and reporting interest from potential new members.

"They ask about the security situation but don't make a big deal out of it," says Avi Kadosh, secretary of Kibbutz Nir Am.

"We live in an unpleasant atmosphere, there are Qassams, and then the cannons go wild, which doesn't make things easier. It causes tension especially among weaker communities, but then there's the Israeli tendency to forget what happened four days ago," he says.

Since the beginning of the intifada, some 14 Qassam rockets have landed in Kibbutz Nir Am, near Sderot, and 200 rockets have landed in the fields around it. Since the pullout the rocket fire has diminished.

"Even the two families who left a few months ago during the worst Qassam barrage have returned; 15 families are expanding their houses, people are building their future here," says Kadosh.

The security situation is worst in Netiv Ha'asara, north of the Gaza Strip. The pullout has brought the border close to the moshav and several mortar shells and rockets have landed there.

Nitzan Dafna, who was born in the moshav, left with his family about a month ago. "He left temporarily with the hope of returning in calmer days," says his mother Miriam.

On Wednesday, he arrived to visit his mother. Suddenly the alert sounded. A mortar shell fell at his feet, wounding him in the face.

Four other families have left the moshav recently, all of them young couples with children.

Before the disengagement, the Defense Ministry and the IDF presented a detailed plan to protect the communities around Gaza. Ministry officials who visited Netiv Ha'asara yesterday promised to speed up the security measures.