The residents of Israel’s south are furious amid the third day of closures of Gaza-area roads following the arrest of an Islamic Jihad commander overnight Monday.
There are no signs of when the lockdown will end as what a Ynet reporter called the “quietest escalation in 20 years” continues. Residents say that the IDF should remove the threat instead of restricting civilians.
The residents of the Gaza border Kerem Shalom kibbutz, who have no alternative exit route and cannot leave the kibbutz, are scheduled to be evacuated to a Jerusalem hotel on Thursday evening after dark.
Residents in other areas are not entirely closed in but are furious about the disruption to their daily lives. Highway 232, the main artery for the residents of the Eshkol Regional Council area, is blocked, disrupting the daily routine of thousands of residents. The alternative roads are not equipped for heavy traffic.
The head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Gadi Yarkoni, wrote an urgent letter to Defense Minister Benny Gantz requesting that alternative routes be prepared for residents as cars were getting stuck in the sand on the alternative roads, resulting in traffic jams and creating safety hazards.
Yarkoni spoke to Kan News on Thursday morning: “There is a concrete threat of sniper attacks against civilians or soldiers which is forcing us to take cover. When there’s no choice, human life takes precedence. Sometimes it’s best to control the situation and sometimes, my residents, unfortunately, suffer.”
In Sderot, one of the entrances to the city is blocked, causing massive traffic jams at the remaining entrance. Some residents are planning on holding a protest on Thursday evening if the lockdown continues.
“This isn’t normal – tens of thousands of people are being punished for the arrest of a terrorist,” one resident said. Another resident said: “Yes, a commander was arrested but half the country is paralyzed. It feels like Yom Kippur on the streets. Would the government close Tel Aviv like this?
The military analyst for Yediot Achranot, Yossi Yehoshua, slammed the lockdown, writing: “Stopping trains and closing roads in the south for a short time if there was a specific warning is reasonable,” he wrote. “To drag it out for days against a small terrorist organization in Gaza due to an arrest (and not an assassination) in Jenin – is already a problem with deterrence.”
“Even if ultimately there’s a response, this still isn’t appropriate conduct for the strongest country in the region. The Islamic Jihad – and all other enemies – need to understand that the price of a missile on a train will be extremely heavy.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)