SDEROT, Israel – “I’m not against the civilians,” said Arik, an Israeli shoe salesman from Rishon LeZion, just outside Tel Aviv.
Arik was one of a half a dozen or so Israelis standing on a hill in the southern Israeli town of Sderot overlooking Gaza. Plumes of smoke were rising in the distance, but there was no cheering on this hill.
One of Arik’s Palestinian clients in Gaza told him by phone that Hamas kicked him out of his house and then used it to fire rockets at Israel. The man said nothing, said Arik, motioning that he kept his lips sealed. “They’re afraid.”
Residents of Arik’s hometown of Rishon LeZion – well within rocket range of Gaza – have had to run for shelter many times during the last two weeks.
“I have four kids,” he said. “They haven’t been outside for one minute in two weeks.” His wife, he said, “cries for every soldier that is killed.”
So far, there have been two civilian casualties on the Israeli side and 18 soldiers as of Sunday evening in Israel, including 13 in 24 hours.
The low civilian count is due to Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system, a plethora of bomb shelters and good Home Front Command education campaign detailing what Israelis should do when the air raid sirens sound.
More than 300 Palestinians have been killed during the last 13 days. Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi accused Israel of war crimes.
But during an interview with BBC Arabic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the casualties on the Palestinian side.
He said that Israel had asked the residents of Shejaia in Gaza to leave, but Hamas told them to stay as “human shields.”
Later, in a televised address to the nation, Netanyahu also noted that Israel twice accepted ceasefire proposals and Hamas broke them.
Israel also announced on Sunday that it would open a field hospital for Palestinians – mainly women and children – just inside Israel at the Erez Crossing from Gaza.
Dan Gordon, a Sar-El army volunteer and reserve captain in the IDF, noted that the Palestinians have proven they are very good at digging, since the IDF has uncovered numerous terror tunnels they have dug. But they have not made any shelters for their own people.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had detonated six “offensive tunnels”– at least two of which had openings inside Israel. Israel says terrorists intended to use the tunnels to carry out attacks against Israelis.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said during a televised press conference that Israel could take care of the threat from the tunnels within two or three days.