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In Sderot, “ghost town” a few kilometers from the IDF military offensive in the Gaza Strip

Special envoy to Sderot.

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In Sderot, “ghost town” a few kilometers from the IDF military offensive in the Gaza Strip

Special envoy to Sderot

It is a hill west of the town of Sderot. From here, the Gaza Strip is very close, a few hundred meters. But we can barely make out the silhouette of Beit Hannoun. The Palestinian city is shrouded in fog. The humid air clearly carries the sounds of the fighting still taking place there. Clear clicks, dull explosions, the roar of fighter planes nearby and yet invisible.

Last night, the Israeli army launched its most intense raid since the start of the war on October 7. On Saturday morning, it announced that it had bombed “150 underground targets in the northern Gaza Strip, including terrorist tunnels, underground combat spaces and other infrastructure.” These violent bombardments accompanied a land incursion: images broadcast Saturday morning by the army communications service show dozens of Merkava tanks, which are still believed to be on site.

Cut off in the early evening, the Internet has still not been restored in the Gaza Strip. Contact is impossible to establish with residents, who mainly use social networks to communicate with the rest of the world. For more than twelve hours, Gaza has been plunged into fog. This Saturday, the latest report communicated by the Hamas Ministry of Health reported 7,703 deaths in the bombings; a figure impossible to verify. The only message we still receive from Gaza, from Israel, are the Al Qassam rockets, the missiles fired by Hamas fighters. On Saturday morning, alarm sirens sounded in several localities surrounding the Gaza Strip: in Kissufim, Magen, Nachal Oz, Nir Oz, Soufa, Nir Itzhak…

Completely evacuated two weeks ago, Sderot is a ghost town. The only human beings we meet there are journalists and soldiers. Sitting on plastic chairs, in the shade of small white awnings, they check the cars. Sometimes someone speeds by in their car.

Half an hour's drive further north, the town of Ashkelon is also deserted. There is a little activity in the Barzilaï hospital, where people injured from October 7 are still being treated. A resident of Sderot, Sara Touito evacuated the city the day after the Hamas terrorist attack. She now lives with her sister-in-law Rachel in Rishon Letzion, in central Israel. But she often returns to Ashkelon. His son, Oshri, 27, was seriously injured on October 7. A bullet smashed his face, he lost an eye. He has already undergone seven operations but she does not know when he will be able to return to some semblance of life. In the meantime, she sleeps in her hospital room. “When there are bombings, we can't take him to Mamad (the shelter, Editor's note), he has too many pipes. Fortunately his room faces north, not towards the Gaza Strip, so we hope not to be hit by the rockets. » In the corridors of the hospital, for three weeks now, the rumble of war has punctuated the work of the staff.

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