Hundreds of Families Ask State for Help to Leave Gaza Border Homes

More than 120 rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Monday, four of them landing in built-up areas.

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Mortar damage at the entrance to one of the communities bordering the Gaza Strip.
Mortar damage at the entrance to one of the communities bordering the Gaza Strip.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Some 300 families from communities near the Gaza Strip asked the Defense Ministry for help in evacuating their homes on Monday, as heavy fire on southern Israel continued. The total number of families that have applied for assistance to leave the border area since Friday is now 700.

The IDF said Palestinians fired about 125 mortars and rockets at Israel yesterday, of which 95 landed in Israel. Another 13 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

The evacuations began after a mortar shell killed 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman in his house at Kibbutz Nahal Oz on Friday. So far, 400 families have been moved to youth hostels and facilities run by the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers. Altogether, the National Emergency Authority has prepared about 1,000 rooms, and one resident of a Gaza-area community said demand exceeded the supply.

Many evacuees are remaining in the south, but have relocated to communities farther from the border, out of range of mortar fire.

The National Emergency Authority has begun considering what do about schooling for the children, since the school year starts on Monday. One possibility is to open classrooms in the facilities where the families are staying. Another is to have the children attend local schools.

Many southerners still object to the term “evacuation,” insisting that the temporary move be called “a breather” instead.

“Nobody has abandoned, is abandoning or will abandon the kibbutz,” said Assaf Artel of Kibbutz Nir Oz.

But Anat Hefetz of Kibbutz Nirim disagreed. “We always call ourselves evacuees and refugees,” she said. “We shouldn’t whitewash it with words like ‘breather’ or ‘taking a break.’ These aren’t people who need a vacation; they’re people who need to defend their lives.”

Meanwhile, there were conflicting reports about the possibility of a cease-fire in Gaza. Two senior Islamic Jihad officials who are members of the joint Palestinian delegation to the truce talks in Cairo said yesterday that a cease-fire announcement would come within hours. But Hamas said no real progress had been made in the talks, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ office also said it had no idea where Islamic Jihad got this idea.

Sunday night, senior PA officials had sounded more optimistic, saying they expected Egypt to announce a cease-fire of unlimited duration very soon. But Hamas denied that report as well.

One Israeli was lightly wounded by a mortar fired at the Eshkol Regional Council yesterday; no siren sounded before the shell landed. Another mortar damaged a high-voltage wire, leaving several communities in the area without electricity. Other rockets and mortars also caused property damage, including to a pool and soccer field in Eshkol and a mall in Ashdod that was hit by shrapnel from an intercepted rocket.

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