Exclusive: Residents demand government action against arson terror from Gaza

“It’s not my job to tell the government what to do,” says a mother of seven. “It’s my job to tell them TO DO… I want my children to grow up with the same security as other children.”

By: Atara Beck, World Israel News

Israel’s south is burning, apparently with no end in sight.

Since the start of the “March of Return” – the violent Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border, including attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory in order to commit acts of terror, which began on March 30 – close to 150 Palestinians have been killed and several thousand were wounded. The majority of casualties were affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups. No Israelis have been killed during the protests.

Gaza-based terrorists have discovered a new tactic – primitive, yet effective – to attack Israel’s south. With the help of children and adults, they have been sending explosive kites and balloons over the border to land in Israeli territory. These incendiary objects are filled with helium that Israel had provided to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for use in hospitals as a humanitarian gesture.

To date, over 30,000 km of land has been scorched, resulting in the loss of approximately 2,000 acres of food and the destruction of natural habitats for wildlife.

‘The south is smoldering’

“It’s bewildering,” said Devorah Horev, a mother of seven who lives with her family in Ma’agalim, a community in Sdot Hanegev. “I demand the same security as the rest of the country. The south is smoldering, and nothing is being done.”

Horev told World Israel News (WIN) that she “demand[s] the government and security cabinet come to a decision to protect us.

“Fire is the most primitive weapon of all times and they [Hamas] are fighting one of the strongest armies in the world,” Horev stated.

“We’re dealing with kids here,” she continued. “My daughter in Grade 5 has the right to go to swimming lessons just like a girl in Tel Aviv. My son just finished Grade 1. Why does a child have to go through this?”

Asked how the family copes – or doesn’t cope – with the red siren alerts, especially throughout the night, Horev explained:

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“My husband can’t run. Each older child is paired with a younger one. We have 15 seconds to run. There’s no time to take the kids to the bomb shelter. What if someone is in the shower or bathroom? That happened to my daughter when she was three. She flushed the toilet and the siren roared simultaneously. Several days later, I realized she wasn’t flushing. She was afraid to bring on the siren…

“I gave birth during the Pillar of Defense war in 2012. The first sound the baby heard was the siren. That night they were non-stop. That’s not the way to live.”

“It’s not my job to tell the government what to do,” she said. “It’s my job to tell them to do… I want my children to grow up with the same security as other children. I am a loyal citizen. I pay taxes. Why am I being ignored?”

‘This is not a political fight’

Horev accused the government of “totally abandoning” the south, adding that Netanyahu “has lost the support of the south.”

“I’ve always voted for Netanyahu but now he won’t get my vote,” she stated. “Why has he not come down to the south? It makes my blood boil. Let him see it. I want his eyes to burn from the smoke. I want him to walk on the charcoaled land. Maybe then he’ll understand what’s going on here.”

Despite her opinions, Horev stresses that “this is not a political fight.” Indeed, the residents of the south are diverse in their political leanings.

“Fire does not differentiate between left and right, religious and secular,” she stated.

Ivan Fleisch owns a farm in the south and lives on Moshav Talmei Yosef. “At present my neighbor is growing on the land. I farmed here for 35 years,” he told WIN.

“I cannot give figures for the whole region bordering the Gaza Strip. On our moshav [agricultural community] alone, over 15 dunam (close to half a hectare) of passion fruit vines, laden with fruit for export to Europe, were destroyed.”

In my initial post I said there was no serious damage.I stand corrected.These are the vines producing passion fruit ( granadilla )for export.Total loss for a picking season that has just begun.

Posted by Ivan Fleisch on Sunday, June 24, 2018

“Most of the damage in the region is of wheat fields before harvesting and, of course, forests, scrub and wildlife,” Fleisch said. “Close by, there was a lot of damage to bee hives.”

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According to a report last month, a farmer lost 40 hives during a single attack.

Asked about the impact on small children, Fleisch said they “do not really see the burnt fields because they are not that close to living areas. There may be some children from kibbutzim [collective communities] adjacent to the [security] fence. Bear in mind that they are aware that kites and balloons – the symbols of childhood – are being used to destroy nature. They are also warned not to approach or handle any of these objects because some have been connected to explosive devices.

‘Not only kids’ suffer trauma

“The rockets and mortars are a different story,” he added. “There are many kids who have still not recovered from Operation Protective Edge (2014 war), and the siren alerts only make matters worse for them. Lots of children, including some of our grandchildren, insist on sleeping in the ‘safe rooms’ even when all is quiet. There is definitely long-term psychological damage.

“By the way, it’s not only the kids,” Fleisch added.

In fact, Gaza terrorists have also fired rockets and mortars over the past few months. In one attack, a kindergarten was hit but the children had not yet arrived.

At a small demonstration organized by local residents in Ashkelon on Thursday, Asher Evron, a resident of Kibbutz Sa’ad, told WIN that his community alone is hit by four-to-five fires on a daily basis.

‘We must not wait for the first victim’

It’s upsetting to see the damage to the farms, he explained, but the bigger issue is the “threat to peoples’ lives. We must not wait for the first victim.”

Elyasaf Yom Tov, 17, a resident of Kfar Maimon, also attended the protest. He told WIN:

“First of all, we do not want sympathy. We’re used to it. This is our life. The problem is that it’s not a normal life.

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“We are not leaving,” he declared. “The opposite – the youth are building. We are not afraid. We will build again…

“The youth of Kfar Maimon decided to make a statement – to build exactly where the fires reaped destruction…. We’re taking donations.”

His sister Shir-el, 20, said the purpose of the demonstration was to bring the situation to the attention of the country. “People aren’t talking much about it,” she said. “I work in Tel Aviv. I come home every day to see where there were new fires. My bedroom is the safe room, and every night my siblings all sleep there.”

‘We want the media to talk about it’

“We want the media to talk about it and the government to do something,” she stated.

Activist Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim at the Gaza border, has given numerous media interviews, describing the way of life in the Gaza periphery. She runs a Facebook group called “Life on the border with Gaza – things people may not know (but should)” in which she reminds followers that Palestinians living in Gaza are also suffering under the cruel Hamas regime and wish they could live normal lives.

“You know, this group is about describing ‘Life on the Border.’ Most of our posters who live on the border live on the Israeli side. But there are a few people who are in this group, most quietly, who live on the OTHER side of the border,” she wrote recently.

Burnt land almost size of Greater Tel Aviv

Haim Yellin, former head of the south’s Eshkol Regional Council, explained the threat to the region in simple terms:

Gush Dan – the greater Tel Aviv area – equals 50,000 dunams. The land burned to date is 35-40 dunams – or twice as large as the Carmel region, he pointed out.

“If this keeps up – about 30 fires a day – within two weeks the damaged land will be equivalent in size to Gush Dan,” Yellin warned.

A large demonstration is being planned for July 12 at the Sderot Junction at 7 p.m., Horev said.