Sderot Mayor Resigns in Wake of Rocket Barrage From Gaza Strip

At least 17 Qassams strike western Negev, injuring 5; High Court to discuss reinforcement for Sderot homes.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal announced his resignation after a barrage of at least 17 Qassam rockets struck the western Negev on Wednesday morning.

Moyal cited his inability to function as mayor in the difficult security situation as reason for his resignation.

The salvo of rockets struck Sderot and the surrounding area hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to remove the threat of Qassams from Israel's south during a conference in Tel Aviv.

Most of the rockets landed in open fields. Five people were lightly wounded by the rockets, including one girl, who was hit by shrapnel. The rest were treated for shock.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Moyal blamed the government for an evasion of responsibility and helplessness against the threat from Gaza, saying he hoped his resignation would encourage a major military operation in the coastal territory.

"I cannot take the responsibility to manage a city that is under attack for seven years," he said. "If 20 children are killed tomorrow from a rocket, I will be asked, 'why did you open the kindergarten?' I have been deliberating matters pertaining to human life for years now, and I cannot continue," he said.

Moyal said later that "this is a decision I have been weighing for many years. A year ago I threatened to quit, and today I have reached a decision. For seven years no one has taken responsibility for what is happening here. It is unreasonable to start the morning with eight Qassams. I am not willing to take this responsibility. I was chosen to manage a city, and not this situation."

Moyal maintains that the goal of his resignation is not to pressure the government into taking a stance, adding that "reinforcement [of structures against rockets], in my opinion, is not a solution, although I understand the residents' demands, and the only demand from the government is to prevent the ability to fire [the rockets]. Sderot is going to break apart. The question whether Moyal is mayor is insignificant, but the question whether Sderot will receive aid is significant."

Sderot, a working-class town of 22,000, has been battered by more than 4,500 crude Qassam rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, just a mile away, since 2001. The unguided projectiles have killed seven residents, injured dozens more, and sowed panic on the town's streets and in its schools. Real estate prices have dropped 60 percent, commerce has collapsed and many residents have fled for fear of the rockets.

The Islamic Jihad militant group took responsibility for firing 11 of the rockets on Wednesday, which it said was an act of revenge after the Israel Defense Forces killed eight Palestinian militants throughout the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

The security cabinet met Wednesday to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Regarding the ongoing Qassam fire, the cabinet told the defense establishment to continue its pinpointed activities in Gaza against Hamas and other militant groups responsible for firing rockets and mortars.

A total of 970 rockets and 1,200 mortar shells have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the start of 2007.

Also on Wednesday, the High Court of Justice was scheduled to hold a hearing on a petition submitted by Sderot residents demanding the reinforcement of 800 homes. The residents demand the money for the project be allocated in the 2008 state budget.

The state maintains that the issue of reinforcement has to do with state policy, and therefore is not within the jurisdiction of the High Court.

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