After the hunger-strike in the protest tent opposite Defense Minister Amir Peretz's home ended Monday, the southern town has closed its gates as of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, and all traffic to and from the city has been blocked.
Meanwhile, another Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in the city early Tuesday; the rocket landed in an open field, and no injuries or damage were reported.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, however, doesn't understand what the fuss is about. "This hysteria over the Qassams must end," he told journalists at the Knesset. "We're just adding to the hysteria. What happened? Kiryat Shmona was shelled for years. What, there weren't missiles?"
Peres added: "We must tell the Palestinians, Qassams shmassams, we'll hold firm. We won't move from here."
The vice premier also accused the management of the Israeli side: "Our response is causing the other side to strike. We must carry out a series of steps in order to take out the Qassams. Peres refused to detail which steps he meant.
Sderot prepares for blackout
Hunger strikers in Sderot complied Monday with President Moshe Katsav's request and agreed to end their strike, nine days after it was first declared. However, residents said they plan to carry on with their protest. The strikers' leader, Alon Davidi, stated he was still disappointed that "there is one man afraid of showing up here, and this is the prime minister."
Children join protest against Qassam fire (Photo: AFP)
Mayor Eli Moyal convened a meeting to discuss the protest acts. All of the city's entrances and exits will be closed, and the streets will be darkened at nine in the evening.
The protest tent opposite the home of Defense Minister Peretz will be thickened and receive aid from Sderot municipality. "I hear the voices and I am aware of them. We have a feeling that our residents are not being protected and this situation has been going on for five and a half years. Over 3,000 rockets have landed," said Moyal.
"We are asking the government to uphold its basic commitment to protect the residents. I wouldn’t want the Palestinians and the world to see pictures of residents ditching the city. We want the city to be full, not abandoned. Part of the protest acts will go on in Jerusalem, including demonstrations opposite the Knesset, and other demonstrations," Moyal added.
Defense Minister Peretz said that "the acts are legitimate and have no political leaning, but rather the sending of a message."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report