40 Families Leaving Gaza Border Community After Member Killed

Kibbutz Kfar Aza residents: We'll 'not be hostages of the state,' will look for new homes away from rockets.

Some 40 families from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Gaza Strip, have decided to leave the area.

"We decided to leave the kibbutz until things quiet down, and unfortunately, it will be with white flags," Dudi Doron, a member of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, said Tuesday. "Neither I nor my children will be Israel's hostages. We will come back when there is a solution to life," Doron said.

Last night, like every night since Friday, when kibbutz member Jimmy Kedoshim was killed by mortar fire while standing in his garden, a number of kibbutz members met to discuss plans to leave en masse.

"Its a matter of where to go and not if to go," another member, Shlomi Koren, said. "I don't expect anyone to solve the problem for me. I have to do it myself because no one has shown any willingness to do it."

"We concluded that we have to take action. And if that action is that we leave the kibbutz, we'll leave, and let the army come in here. Our goal is to protect our children. That comes before protecting the community," Doron said.

The families were looking for housing in kibbutzim out of range of the missiles, Doron said. "I have a responsibility to the kibbutz and I'll stay here. But my children will be away from the kibbutz, and let no one preach to me when I'm protecting my children. I'm willing to change places with Olmert and with any citizen, and I'm willing to come and do my shopping in Sderot," Doron said.

Earlier, the head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, Alon Shuster, said the council would assist any resident who wanted to leave, so that they could maintain a semblance of normal life outside the kibbutz.

"On Friday we woke up to a new day and a black future. This will be a battlefield. Four mortars struck the community, it was luck only one person was killed," Koren said.

In a meeting Tuesday with council heads from Gaza-area communities, where two civilians have been killed by missiles fired from the Gaza Strip in the past week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said a solution would not take eight years - the period the area has been under fire - but rather less than a year. He said that calm would be achieved either through peace or through war.

The council heads demanded action be taken on the issue within a few days, and said the only thing to come from the meeting with Barak was his promise to expedite the reinforcement of homes in the area.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai was also in the area Tuesday, and paid a condolence call on the Kedoshim family. "Even when the heart says 'act,' we must follow our heads and not our gut feelings," Vilnai said. "I recommend that our enemies not interpret restraint as a lack of confidence. There is no solution to a Qassam barrage, but we are determined to provide quiet to the residents of Sderot and the Gaza border area, whether through gestures or through military action," Vilnai told area residents.

He also said he would work to better protect the residents from mortars and Qassam rockets.