The people of Sderot, a small town in southern Israel a few miles from the Gaza Strip, have 15 seconds to take cover whenever the wail of sirens gives warning of another rocket attack.
By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor
The Telegraph (UK)
Palestinians try to dig out the remains of a security force officer from Hamas as he lays in the rubble following an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza City,Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel’s campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday, Palestinian medical sources said.(AP Photo/Fadi Adwan)
For almost five years, this has been their daily ordeal and Sderot’s bus stops have been specially reinforced to serve as armoured shelters from the regular salvoes fired out of Gaza.
With a general election due on Feb 10, no Israeli government could afford to appear indifferent to this threat, especially as Palestinian fighters are deploying rockets with longer ranges and heavier warheads, with some weapons capable of hitting the port of Ashdod 20 miles from Gaza. In all, some 500,000 Israelis live within range of Gaza’s rockets.
The political imperative to act undoubtedly lay behind Israel’s decision to launch the attack. It will have weighed most heavily on the minds of Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist Kadima party, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister and leader of the Labour party.
Both will be fighting the election against Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister from the right-wing Likud party. As they enter this contest, neither can afford to appear anything but hawkish.
Yet the scale of the response exposes Israel to international criticism. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed in the last two days alone. By contrast, rockets fired from Gaza have killed 17 Israeli civilians in the last seven years.