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Yoram Vaaknin, one of the merchants Photo: Reei Tal Braunstein
Yoram Vaaknin, one of the merchants Photo: Reei Tal Braunstein
 
Waiting for customers Photo: Reei Tal Braunstein
Waiting for customers Photo: Reei Tal Braunstein
 
 

Barrages continue: Sderot turns into ghost town

Qassam rocket which caused severe injury of worker Tuesday morning was another nail in southern town's coffin. Market, commercial centers are empty. Business owner: Parents are afraid to send their children outside, and I understand them

Yael Ivri
Published: 11.21.06, 14:23 / Israel News

The rocket fire from the northern Gaza Strip toward the southern town of Sderot continued on Tuesday as well, critically wounded a worker.

 

The city streets seemed emptier than ever. A large number of the residents left the city for safer places, such as Eilat.

 

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Those who stayed did not dare to leave the houses and the fortified areas. Only few dared to go out to the market and the commercial centers, places which in the past were teeming with life.

 

Once in a while, a few courageous residents who dared to leave their house for a few minutes to buy some groceries arrived at the market. An entire line of stands was simply "erased," because the desperate stand owners failed to show up.


Market almost empty (Photo: Reei Tal Braunstein)

 

They are forced to risk their lives and work in an unfortified place, but there is hardly any livelihood.

 

Yoram Vaaknin, 44, who has been working at the market for 30 years no, told Ynet about the situation: "On a normal day I work nonstop, but recently buyers stopped coming here. I am a father of six, so I have to continue working here. I have no other choice. Many of my clients have left the city. Not only them, many stand owners have also left the market.

 

"Since the Palestinians began firing improved rockets at us, which also hurt and kill, the situation is much worse. People are extremely terrified."

 

Eti Almog, who has also owned a stand in the market for the past eight years, asked that the place be closed down.

 

"They have to close it. The market is unfortified. A disaster could happen if, God forbid, a Qassam lands here. We have nowhere to run. What shall we do? We don’t even have minimal protection.

 

"The market, the center of life, which was once filled with buyers, is empty. If there is a Red Color warning now, we'll have nothing left to do but to stay close to the wall."

 

The Sderot commercial center, which is located opposite the Klalit HMO, is empty. Haim Baranes, a 28-year-old business owner, refers to the place as "Sderot's Dizengoff Center."

 

We were barely able to find three people in the center, which is surrounded by barber shops, kiosks, newspaper stands, fast food stands and restaurants.

 

Baranes is ready to swear that in other days the place is crowded.

 

"There are usually many children, many people who do their shopping here and walk around," he says. "Today the parents are afraid to send their children outside, and I understand them."

 

According to him, "For a month and a half now, since they began firing the improved Qassams at us, since the injuries and casualties here, people are afraid. I myself am under stress, most of my friends and the people my age have left the city.

 

"Look at this city – there are only adults here, no younger people. Whoever could have left ran away. To Tel Aviv, to Ashdod, to Eilat with Gaydamak."


Sderot's 'Dizengoff Center' (Photo: Reei Tal Braunstein)

 

Haim Baranes, like many other merchants in the city, doesn’t know what to do: "I estimate that my livelihood has been reduced by at least 30 percent. But to tell you the truth, I am desperate. Absolutely desperate. I have no claims toward the army, because also when the IDF is in Gaza we get Qassams on our head here.

 

"I don’t know who to complain to anymore, I am just desperate. Also desperate by the fact that there is no fortification here. There is no minimal fortification, we are walking around here like in a roulette. There is even no shelter in the area, nothing."

 

Residents: Mayor is to blame for situation

In the second commercial center, near the city hall, it was difficult to find people. Four of the town residents, who stood next to the local newspaper stand, asked to convey a clear message: Mayor Eli Moyal is to blame for the situation.

 

"We are angry at the mayor, all our anger is directed at him. He is excellent in giving interviews, but when it comes to looking after the residents, he is a big nothing. He and his associates drive around in nice cars and the residents are abandoned," said Leon, a town resident.

 

The mayor said in response: "I assume that only a number of residents share this thought. In general, as a policy, I do not plan to respond to remarks made by residents who are expressing their anger and resentment. I only want to remind the residents that I was not elected to defend Sderot or to send warplanes, but to fight for the city, make the public hear it, and I believe I am doing it in an appropriate manner."

 

Town resident Asi Zvulun said that he was left alone in the city, after his family left for the north.

 

"Everyone went away, for fear of Qassams. I stayed, simply to watch the house. If a Qassam falls, God forbid, I will see that no thieves enter."

 

Another resident watched the empty street and said in desperation: "This is a place where people eat, run their errands at the bank, go to the post office, shop. Look, there is no one here now."

 

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