Up close and personal: Meeting the people of Sderot who struggle in a devastating war

Deserted streets, soldiers stationed everywhere and ready for battle, residents crowd into one tiny convenience store to get supplies for their families; We bring the day-to-day anguish experienced by the people of a town whose only crime was to be close to Gaza

Meshi Ayed, Hagai Dekel|Updated:

By the third day of the war that started with a horrific Hamas attack, the route leading to Sderot was nearly abandoned, with only law enforcement and military vehicles visible. The distant echoes of rocket blasts and gunfire create an unsettling atmosphere akin to a relentless downpour. The city streets remain deserted, all establishments closed, while IDF soldiers diligently conduct patrols, actively searching for any remaining terrorists still lurking around.
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Mofida's grocery store is the sole establishment open amid the desolation, drawing in those who seek essential provisions such as food, clothing, beverages and cigarettes. In her distinct Arabic accent, she assures us, "I’m not afraid. I’ve lived in Sderot as an Arab for 26 years. My kids are here. I bought a house here. Everyone here is like family.”
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Sderot after the Hamas attack
(Photo: Hagai Dekel)
Speaking of her vital role in the Sderot community in times of need, she says: “Everybody is calling me because they have no food, no water, no baby formula.”
Her son, Sultan, is scrolling on his smartphone screen, navigating between tasks he has to perform for this city’s residents, who are understandably terrified of leaving the house, as rocket sirens are nauseatingly frequent here. “I normally don’t do deliveries, but there’s no one else to do it,” he tells us.
At the city's entrances, there are snipers on rooftops and soldiers on the ground with their guns pointed, all from the Paratroopers Brigade, ready for any potential terrorists who might still show up, as per the warnings. Menachem, a lifelong resident of Sderot who lives right by the entrance, is putting up more than 18 family members in his home.
The vivid images he witnessed on Saturday morning are etched in his memory. "A barrage of missiles began, so we went outside to see what was happening. Suddenly, I saw a group of heavily armed Hamas terrorists entering the city, dressed in black uniforms. They fired their weapons into the air and shouted 'Allahu Akbar.' We immediately ran back into the house. We're not scared anymore of tear gas or the Code Red alert siren. I have faith in the IDF to handle the situation, and now it's time to erase Gaza. Enough is enough!" according to Menachem
Some of the kibbutzim and moshavim in the southern region have transformed into staging areas for the numerous reserve forces arriving in the area. In one of these groups, Brothers in Arms, mostly known to the Israeli public from the anti-judicial overhaul protests, have set up shop to facilitate moving supplies to all who require them., as well as physically extracting those who can’t help themselves from dangerous areas.
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Cars are covered with dirt and shrapnel
(Photo: Hagai Dekel)
Oshrit, a Sderot resident, experienced her house being damaged and destroyed by a rocket on Saturday. Since then, she has been staying with her son, daughter-in-law, and their one-year-old baby because they had nowhere else to go. They reached out to the organization's command center, and help arrived promptly. "Our home was completely destroyed, and we had no options or resources. Someone gave me a phone number, I made the call, and they immediately came to rescue us. We are fortunate to have kind-hearted people supporting us. Until that day, I only knew them from the protests," Oshrit shared.
Continuing on, we head toward the main road that leads to Kfar Aza. The scenes we encounter are distressing - numerous vehicles, scorched and pierced by Hamas bullets. The individuals who were once here did not survive. It is a tragic massacre that spans kilometers. The magnitude of horror is indescribable. At a specific point, our progress is halted by IDF forces who alert us to the possibility of infiltration, prompting us to turn back.
Alongside the road, we spot multiple lifeless bodies of Hamas terrorists, eliminated by the IDF. They were clad in uniforms and armed from head to toe. As soon as we activated the camera, the blaring sirens filled the air, accompanied by a rapid barrage of dozens, or perhaps even more, rockets being launched.
We find ourselves lying on the road, just a few meters away from the terrorists' bodies, who met their demise on this very route yesterday evening. While some of the missiles are intercepted by the Iron Dome, others impact open terrain several hundred meters away from our position. Faint echoes of weaponry can also be heard in the background. The conflict within Israeli territory persists, and it seems likely this is just the beginning.
First published: 05:38, 10.11.23
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