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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sderot Residents fight the law to protect their houses

In Sderot, protecting your home means violating city laws
By Haaretz Staff

People in the southern town of Sderot have a choice: obey the law, or protect their homes against constant Qassam fire. One of them is Dr. Boris Singer, who is conducting a legal battle with the municipality so he could build a sheltered area for his family.
Sixteen years ago, Singer immigrated to Israel from Russia. Now, the 68-year-old lives with his son's family in Sderot, near the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. "Some Qassam rockets actually fly over our house. 180 of them hit as near as 50 meters from here," he says, explaining the urgent need for a sheltered zone in the house.
Singer and his family are by no means the only ones who are barred from protecting themselves from the daily firing of Qassams. For now, they are prevented from doing so by rigid building regulations. The government has promised to reinforce public structures to make them Qassam-proof. At a later stage, the government promised, the same will be done to private residences. In the meantime, however, the Qassam danger has driven some to break the law by going ahead and building sheltered rooms for themselves.
Last December, Singer almost lost his life to a Qassam rocket that landed near him as he was walking outdoors. The impact sent shrapnel to his upper body, and he sustained injuries to his face and arms. When the rocket landed, he had already been in the throes of a legal battle with the municipality to authorize his building plans.
Unlike Singer, many of his neighbors decided to press ahead with construction, hoping that the Knesset will at some point in the future vote to reimburse the costs of privately constructed shelters in Sderot and other frontier zones. He points to his neighbors, and says: "They're tired of chasing the council around, they just went ahead and built the thing."
Sderot Municipality responded to the matter, saying it is "adhering to the zoning and building regulations." Interior Minister spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said the ministry was acting to regulate the issue, and authorize construction of sheltered rooms in the region.

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