Rocket-battered Ashdod Wants Israel to Go 'All the Way’ in Gaza

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The aftermath of a Grad rocket explosion in Ashdod, July 14, 2014.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Anna Friedman was at work in Kiryat Malachi on Wednesday when she heard that a neighborhood of Ashdod, where she and her husband Yuri live, took a hit.

Then her neighbor called her crying. Just two hours into the supposed cease-fire, a rocket from Gaza had slammed into the garden next to their building, blowing out all the windows and sending shrapnel everywhere.

She arrived home, opened the door, and herself started to cry. The apartment was carpeted with glass, every window blown out from the force of the rocket.

“We woke up today and we thought, okay, we’ve got a cease-fire. I never imagined it would end like this,” said Friedman, a 27-year-old accountant who immigrated to Israel from Ukraine when she was 12. “It’s a miracle that we weren’t home,” she shook her head, still looking a bit dazed. “The situation can’t continue like this.”

It looks likely to do just that, following a dramatic day in which Israel gave Hamas approximately five hours to uphold an cease-fire proposed by Egypt. After dozens of rockets came careening towards Israel after 9 A.M., when Israel began holding its fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel would resume its campaign against Hamas in Gaza. Soon afterwards, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held a press a conference in which he said Operation Protective Edge must “go all the way” and end with Israel in complete control of the Gaza Strip, essentially endorsing a reoccupation of the territory Israel left nine years ago this summer.

That sounded like the only answer to many in Ashdod, where nearly a third of the population are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, not a few of them supporters of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Most buildings in this middle-class neighborhood, a mix of old private homes and small apartments, have no safe rooms and no bomb shelters, and so residents have become accustomed to riding out the sirens in what is deemed by the Home Front Command to be the next best thing – the stairwells. But the marks of shrapnel scattered across the walls of even the stairways here following the rocket attack made people question how effective a strategy that was.

“I knew it wasn’t over, that much is clear. The hardest thing for us is that now there’s no safe place in Israel,” said Yossi Abecasis, who showed a reporter the small shrapnel wound in the paw of his dog, Ice, who was home when the rocket hit. “It’s not just about the South anymore. If you were in America, you wouldn’t say that the Midwest is under attack – the U.S. is under attack. It’s one country. It’s the same here.”

His friend, Jacques Klapp, who also lives here but was at work in Tel Aviv for the day when the rocket hit, said he doesn’t agree with Lieberman’s tough talk about reoccupying Gaza. “It would be too costly for us, in terms of soldiers’ lives,” he said. “But we do need to overthrow Hamas.”

In the evening, another siren wails in Ashdod, warning the residents of an incoming rocket. Inside the Lev Ashdod mall, evening shoppers and ice-cream seekers nervously hurry for a shelter – another stairwell. When we emerge, Shmuel Gozland congratulates Netanyahu for playing his cards brilliantly.

“Netanyahu made a beautiful political maneuver. He proved to the world that they want war and we don’t,” says Gozland, a computer technician. “He knew Hamas wouldn’t accept the cease-fire, but he gave them a chance. And now it’s time to finish the matter – we need to go in by land, sea and air.”