ON THE SCENE: A Kassam Rocket Strikes a Home in Sderot

I heard two explosions, one after the other, indicating that two Kassam rockets had struck my town, Sderot, Israel, at about 1:30 last Thursday morning. Having been through the big fire of last week, when a Kassam ignited a paint factory, I looked out my window for any sign of fire. I saw none. I considered going out to look for the damage, but I knew nobody would be in the streets at that hour. Nobody would be able to direct me in the direction of the bombing. I listened for ambulance or fire-engine sirens, but I heard none. I concluded that it had not been a serious attack. Much of the town seemed dark; it sometimes happens that a Kassam blast knocks out Sderot's electricity. I returned to bed.

In the morning, the “Breaking News” section of the Jerusalem Post informed me that the blasts I had heard had indeed struck houses in Sderot. I deduced that the fire-engines, ambulances, and other vehicles had not turned their sirens on in the middle of the night, because they did not want to awaken the whole town, and because no traffic would clog the streets at that hour anyway. I set forth to investigate.

Few people were in the streets, because folks stay home on "Kassam days."

I found helpful citizens who directed me in the general direction of where they had heard the explosions. After several chats, I narrowed my search to Neveh Eshkol, a neighborhood many or most of whose buildings were old "shikunim," or apartment blocks with small apartments, very often owned by Amigur, which means they are government-owned, highly subsidized flats for families who have little money.

I went into a grocery store to ask exactly where the rockets had fallen. The owner joked, "Do you always come to me with this question?" He referred to the fact that I had indeed asked him about earlier missile attacks on his neighborhood. I pictured them to myself; everybody who lives in Sderot reviews the many bombings he has seen as he passes through the streets where he has seen them. A tree stood near a kindergarten until recently; a Kassam had split it in half on the first day of the school year, and the first Kassam murder in Sderot was that of an elderly immigrant from Bukhara who bled to death after shrapnel hit him as he waited for his granddaughter outside another school.

I knew that hopes of the Muslim terrorists who shoot these missiles at us in order to kill random people of Sderot had not been realized. I was therefore not in the state of agitation and terror with which I approach a home that I know has just been hit, but of whose inhabitants' fates I do not yet know. I saw various government-types walking around outside the building. We looked up to see the unmistakable hole a Kassam makes in a home's wall.

I walked upstairs to the top floor. That floor is usually that which is hit. The door to the flat stood open, and people were examining the home to assess damage for insurance. They were measuring the hole the rocket made when it went through the wall, touching the broken furniture, and photographing everything. Knick-knacks and family photos lay on the floor. Pictures hung on the wall, but at crazy angles. Everything in that room was covered with the dust the explosion had created, and an acrid smell of stale burning hung in the air. The rocket had penetrated a wall, knocked off part of the back of a sofa that had stood at that wall, and made a small crater in the concrete floor in front of the sofa. I studied the angles at which the missile entered that home. Had the Kassam arrived a few hours earlier, someone might well have been sitting on that sofa. The missile would surely have cut him in two.