SDEROT, ISRAEL – Sitting on a leather sofa in flip-flops and shorts, smoking and eating snacks, a group of middle-aged Israeli men look like they are watching a soccer match on TV, but they are perched atop a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip watching a very different kind of contest.
The buzz of drones flying overhead is interrupted by the blast of rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave. Surrounded by camera crews who rush to catch the action, the men watch for the distant explosions of Israeli airstrikes, occasionally offering their commentary on the fighting.
“I don’t come up here to cheer at their troubles,” Yochanan Cohen, 57, said of his neighbors in Gaza. “I’m sick of sitting at home all day. Everything is closed. People are scared. Many have left, and those who’ve stayed won’t go out.”
Cohen lives in Sderot, a town near Gaza frequently targeted by Palestinian militants’ rocket salvos. His house was struck by a projectile just a week ago, he said.
“I’m sure the simple folk in Gaza just want peace and quiet, like we do. I don’t want to see houses destroyed here, and I don’t want to see houses destroyed there,” he said. “But Israel needs to go in there once and for all and get rid of the terrorists and all their weapons.”
Israel’s Iron Dome missile interception system has shot down most rockets aimed at populated areas, minimizing casualties.
But not all projectiles are shot down. Israel suffered its first fatality when a mortar shell killed a civilian not far from the Gaza border. More than half a dozen other Israelis have also been wounded in rocket attacks.
One rocket landed by an apartment building on Monday, lightly wounding an 8-year-old boy, in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod.
Surrounded by broken furniture and shattered glass that had scattered across the living room of the damaged apartment, the boy’s great-grandmother swept up the debris.
“How much longer can this situation go on?” said Naftali Danielov, a relative of the injured boy.
One of the Sderot residents who had spent the night on the hilltop sofa seemed skeptical Tuesday that the overnight lull he had just witnessed would last for long. “OK, it’s over,” he said as he headed home. “See you again next year.”