Friday, January 30, 2009

When Children Are Targets of Rocket Attacks.


by Josh Hasten

Imagine what life would be like living in a U.S. border town such as San Diego or Detroit, and every single day terrorists from Mexico or Canada, respectively, would indiscriminately launch one, two, five, 10 or even 50 short-range rockets at your home, office or your children's school, causing death and destruction. Imagine having to wake up each day and waiting for your bus, not at a bus stop, but inside a bomb shelter. Imagine being afraid to take a shower, go for a walk or to play in the park with your children. Imagine if you sent your kids to school every day and weren't totally certain they would return home safe and sound. For the residents of Sderot, a town in southern Israel located just a mile away from the Gaza Strip, these scenarios are not an imagination, but a reality.

Over the past seven years and counting, terrorists from Hamas-controlled Gaza have launched over 6,000 Qassam rockets at Sderot, killing 11 Israelis, wounding hundreds and sending thousands to the hospital to be treated for shock. While Israel has ordered its armed forced to carry out strikes against the Qassam-launching terror cells - pinpointed strikes nonetheless, to avoid civilian casualties - the rockets continue to fall almost unabated.

The goal of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations carrying out the attacks is clear - to rid Sderot of its Jewish population. While several thousand of Sderot's 24,000 residents have in fact packed up and left town for good, the majority of the residents are determined not to let Sderot become a ghost town. Some residents spend their days hunkered at home in claustrophobic bomb shelters, unwilling to risk their lives by moving around to other parts of the home, or even to set foot outdoors.

Unfortunately in Sderot, it is the children who are suffering the most, some living all of their young lives under the constant threat of the Qassams. In fact, children in Sderot who were born in or after 2001 have never experienced a normal life without having just 15 precious seconds to seek cover after hearing the "code red" siren, warning of an imminent attack. School teachers have the overwhelming responsibility of making sure all of their students are accounted for and in a safe place, every single time the siren goes off.

As a result of the attacks, according to the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War, between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4-18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Mental health experts in Sderot are reporting hundreds of cases of trauma-related symptoms including regression, which sometimes involves bed wedding by children years out of diapers. In addition, any loud sudden noise has the potential of sending a child into an uncontrollable panic.

The terrorists who carry out these attacks have taken pride in their efforts to harm and traumatize Israeli children. Israeli organizations that monitor terror group websites have indicated that the terrorists admit to deliberately increasing the number of rocket launches during school days and in the morning hours, when children are making their way to school. Parks in Sderot have become desolate and deserted, as parents are too afraid to send their children outside to play. The same holds true for the local pizza shop and mall. 

So how can this situation be resolved? There are many opinions in Israel's political establishment as to what more can be done to quell the rocket attacks. Many suggest a full army takeover of Gaza with the goal of weeding out Hamas and other terror cells, similar to Israel's successful Operation Defense Shield in Judea and Samaria in 2002, which greatly reduced the suicide bombings at the time. Whatever the government decides to do in the end, the most important matter at hand is protecting the residents of Sderot whose lives hang in the balance each and every day.


Josh Hasten
- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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