'The Rockets Don't Distinguish Between Jews and Arabs'

With no shelter or any protected space nearby, a Bedouin family in Rahat has nothing to do but look skyward when the sirens go off.

Yanir Yagna
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Yanir Yagna

When there's a Code Red alert signaling that a rocket has been fired in their direction from the Gaza Strip, Ahmed Ziyadna is especially nervous because he and his nine children have nowhere to run.

The family, which belongs to a Bedouin tribe that has settled outside Rahat, has no shelter or any protected space nearby. When there's an alarm, Ziyadna's children run out of their tent and look skyward, hoping to see the Iron Dome system shooting down the incoming rocket.

"The rockets don't distinguish between Jews and Arabs," says Ziyadna. "We hear the sirens from Rahat and Bnei Shimon and we're very scared. We have no free-standing shelters here or any place to take cover.

"I have two small children who start screaming every time they hear the echoes from the booms. It's unbearable. As usual, the state has abandoned the Bedouin sector," he said.

Four free-standing shelters, known in Hebrew as miguniot, were brought Saturday to Rahat, Israel's only Bedouin city. "Only four miguniot for 10,000 residents," stressed Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu Sahiban.

When there's a siren most Rahat residents don't run to seek shelter, but go up to their roofs hoping to see the rockets being shot down. According to a local journalist, Hussein al-Ubra, "This will only change if a missile falls in the area. Only then will they understand."

City officials expected residents to be apathetic to the Home Front Command safety guidelines, which is why they instructed local imams to preach in the mosques about the danger and the steps to take during a rocket alert.

"We distributed Home Front Command leaflets to every house in the city," said Abu Sahiban, who added that the situation in his town was worrisome.

"There have been 15 alarms in Rahat and the residents don't follow the instructions. In 60 percent of the homes in Rahat there is no protected room. The Home Front Commanded supplied four miguniot, but that's not enough for a city and for the thousands of people living on the city's outskirts in tin shacks."

Abu Sahiban said in his city they are praying for an immediate cease-fire.

"The residents feel as if they belong to both sides, and they want to be a bridge of peace between the two peoples."

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