Residents See Calm as Chance to Fortify for Next Round

People in both the Gaza Strip and the adjacent Israeli communities are waiting in anticipation for the cease-fire to come into effect. They long for quiet and security, but both sides will exploit it to prepare for the next war.

Hamas, at least according to various Israeli military officials, plans to rearm itself. The residents of Israel's border communities hope that a six-month lull will be enough to reinforce their towns and kibbutzim.

"Maybe there'll be a miracle and our houses will be reinforced, maybe Iron Dome...," said Hemda Tzifroni, a member of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, referring to the missile interception system that is slated to be operational by early 2010.

The cease-fire, which is supposed to begin this morning, is being met with great doubt. "The relationship between us and Hamas is based on mistrust, and we already had one or two hudnas [truces] that broke easily," Tzifroni said, "but I need that quiet like air to breathe. I want to believe it will be all right," she said.

Despite the broad lawns and open expanses of the kibbutzim in the area, few children can be seen playing outside. Ofer Lieberman of Kibbutz Nir Am says they fear being unable to find shelter in the event of a rocket or mortar strike. Now people hope their children will once again be able to play outside.

For a month now, Aryeh Yifrach's wife and four children have been in England. After fellow Kfar Aza kibbutz member Jimmy Kedoshim was killed by a mortar shell in his yard, on May 9, Yifrach's family left. He stayed behind, in anticipation of being called up for reserve duty in what he believed was an imminent military operation. Now, with the cease-fire approaching, he will join the family in England. They expect to stay there for the next year.

"The agreement is the government's biggest disgrace," Yifrach said. "We gave in to Hamas and it is now dictating whether we have quiet here or not." Yifrach does not believe the cease-fire will provide peace and security to the area: "The agreement will blow up in our faces. They are rearming and we didn't get back Shalit ... you can't trust Hamas to do something in phase two or phase three," Yifrach said.

Near the end of the interview, the Color Red air raid alert was sounded, and a few missiles landed nearby. The kibbutz security coordinator sent out an SMS to the members: "Do not wander around outside, due to the Qassam missile threat."