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Israeli military tackles missile threat -

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Israeli military tackles missile threat

Reporter: Matt Brown

MAXINE MCKEW: To international events now, and when Israel invaded the Gaza strip two weeks ago, it
said it was hunting for the Palestinian militants who had just captured an Israeli soldier and
taken him into the maze of streets and back alleys of Gaza. The quest to return Corporal Gilad
Shalit continues, but the military operation has quickly altered. Now it is designed to fulfil a
much more difficult objective - to end the steady rain of makeshift missiles fired by Palestinian
militants from Gaza into Israel. Israeli missiles and bombs were the first step. Now tanks and
troops have moved in. The ABC's Middle East correspondent Matt Brown visits two towns caught in the
middle of the crossfire.

MATT BROWN: It's 1:00am in Sderot in southern Israel. A Kazam missile launched by Palestinian
militants in the Gaza Strip has just landed outside the local sports complex.

MAN, TRANSLATION: I just saw the Kazam. It went over my head like that.

MATT BROWN: In the past five years, five people have been killed by the missiles in Sderot, sowing
the seeds of the current flare-up of violence in Gaza. The locals say the rain of projectiles
amounts to nothing less than a reign of terror. The constant fear is all the more galling because
Sderot is the hometown of the Israeli Defence Minister, Amir Peretz.

MAXIM ATIAS: If the Minister of Defence can't bring peace to his own home, who really can bring the
peace? That is our dilemma.

MATT BROWN: The Banner children of Sderot know this sense of instability well. They have the kind
of show and tell collection that would make most parents shudder. They've decorated the glass from
their windows, blown out by Kazam rockets landing outside, and they even have a fragment of the
shrapnel as a keepsake. "This morning I woke up with the Red Dawn alert, and I stayed in the secure
room, because I sleep in there," this boy says. "Then I heard a boom and window in my room was
shaking." In fact, two Kazam rockets landed outside the Banner home, just 10 days apart and Uriel
Banner is angry his children must live in constant fear.

URIEL BANNER, TRANSLATION: This thing happened 10 days ago. You can see the distance, it's just
unbelievable - it's like a shooting range - same place at more or less the same hour. And you can
see the school nearby, and understand the meaning of that.

MATT BROWN: The town lies just across the border from Gaza, and the local mayor, Eli Moyal says it
must be protected at almost any cost.

ELI MOYAL, SDEROT MAYOR: It has cost a lot of lives, innocent people. But we are innocent. Now
silent. If you asking me I'm against that innocent people will die, both sides. But if some
innocent people will die in this crisis, I prefer them in Gaza Strip, not in Sderot - it is my
natural choice.

MATT BROWN: And as it turns out, that's become the choice of the Israeli Government, too. The
Israeli military has been shelling the fields of northern Gaza for nearly nine months. Long before
the Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit was seized by Palestinian militants and held captive in the
backblocks of Gaza, the missiles were flying and the shells were falling. Now the tanks and troops
have moved in. All along, Israel's objective has been to deny the Palestinian militants the
opportunity to launch their rockets and get Palestinian civilians to turn against them. But the
tactic hasn't worked. And the people of Gaza have grown more supportive of attacks on Israel.
People like Sa'edah Mahmoud Abu Jarad. Her husband was killed when an Israeli shell landed on the
taxi he was driving, and she says she has no sympathy for her Israeli neighbours living just across
the hills.

SA'EDAH MAHMOUD ABU JARAD, TRANSLATION: We had to kill them just as they are killing us, and we
should not sit and do nothing.

MATT BROWN: In the month of May alone, Israel fired 3,000 shells into Gaza. But Palestinian
militants managed to fire 300 rockets aimed at Israel. This member of the armed wing of Hamas
proudly displays one of his organisation's most prized possessions - a rocket with enough range to
reach into the bigger cities of Israel, just to the north of the Gaza Strip.

HAMAS MILITANT, TRANSLATION: Our missiles are used as a response to the crimes of the occupier, and
you know that all of the roads out of here is closed, so the only thing we can use is a missile.

MATT BROWN: He calmly explains that this rocket can carry a 10 kilogramme warhead and his men will
send it on its way to Israeli cities, with a prayer to Allah. Israel has far more sophisticated
laser-guided missiles, but they, too, have claimed civilian lives. When Israeli pilots targeted a
van driven by a team of militants through Gaza City last month, they had good reason to believe a
long-range rocket was being carried inside. The air strike killed two militants, but it also
claimed the lives of several civilians. This man lost his brother, his cousin and his nephew in one
hit.

LOCAL PALESTINIAN, TRANSLATION: I'm asking all the Palestinian factions, and all the people to
increase the military actions against the Israelis and to increase the suicide bombings, and not to
differentiate between children and adults, because they're killing our children.

MATT BROWN: The children living on both sides of the line are learning to live their lives under
the barrage. They keep trying to go on as normal, but they are showing the unmistakable signs of
serious trauma.

IYAD SARRAJ, GAZA MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM: In the north of Gaza, it is the highest incidence of
bed-wetting in the world now because of this. It is so high. In every family, and at the age of 13
and 14 now even, that children and their families complain of bed-wetting.

MATT BROWN: In Sderot, less than three kilometres away, the children are also growing up with a
lasting sense of unease and anxiety, unsure of when the next Kazam rocket is going to land.

DR ORIT NUTTMAN-SCHWARTZ, SDEROT SOCIAL WORK DEPARTMENT: There is no safe place for anybody here
and it's a kind of roulette, you know. You can't protect on yourself, so the distress is very high.

MATT BROWN: Those wielding the weapons on both sides say they want a world in which their children
can sleep safely at night. But men with rockets and artillery rarely manage to deliver that dream.
When the ground troops pull out of Gaza, the barrage from both sides is likely to continue.