Rebecca Anna Stoil, yaakov katz, and jpost staff,
Firefighters battled frantically to extinguish the massive blaze that broke out in the western Negev restaurant but couldn't prevent the it from burning to the ground.
Southern District Commander Cmdr. Ori Bar-Lev was on the scene directing security arrangements.
In total, three rockets hit the western Negev on Sunday evening, including one in Sderot, which caused a woman to suffer shock.
Earlier Sunday, Sderot residents said that Defense Minister Amir Peretz's declaration of a state of emergency in the city was too little, too late.
"Unfortunately, only after dozens of Kassam rockets and thousands of residents have left Sderot, the government only now understands that there is a state of emergency in Sderot," said Alon Davidi, a Sderot activist.
At around 1:30 p.m. a convoy of local businessmen, accompanied by police forces, began making their way from Sderot to Ashkelon Junction to protest the economic situation in the western Negev town. By 3:30 p.m. the convoy reached Ashkelon Junction.
The approximately 50 protestors were causing a minor disturbance to traffic patterns but police said that traffic was still flowing at the busy intersection.
Practically, Peretz's declaration means that he has transferred civilian authority power to the IDF's Home Front Command, which can shut down factories and workplaces, and order medical clinics as well as other facilities to remain open.
Last summer, during the Second Lebanon War, Peretz declared a similar state of emergency in northern Israel following the Hizbullah Katyusha rocket attacks.
Following disturbing scenes televised last week in which panicked Sderot residents pushed, hit and cursed one another in order to board busses taking locals away from the city under fire, the municipality announced Sunday morning that they had opened a hotline that would be responsible for recording the details concerning Sderot residents who had received subsidized relief programs, both private and government-sponsored.
"This is for the purpose of oversight and to prevent ugly actions," said Sderot spokesman Yossi Cohen Sunday.
Cohen said that following a Saturday night situation assessment, city leaders realized that 4,000 of the city's residents had already been evacuated to temporary "relief" programs throughout the country. Previously, he said, city leaders had believed that only half that number had already been relieved. That number, he emphasized, does not take into consideration the dozens of citizens who have already received or are currently receiving hospitality from private families.
Early Sunday morning, a barrage of five Kassam rockets struck Sderot and the surrounding areas in the course of two minutes. One landed in the yard of a Sderot house, which was fortunately empty at the time. A second landed in a busy intersection, knocking down traffic lights.
A few hours later, four more Kassam rockets struck Sderot, with one landing in the city center without exploding. Sappers were called in to difuse the dud rocket.
Following the early morning barrage, four people were evacuated to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital to receive treatment for shock. An hour later, an additional four were also taken to Barzilai and also treated for shock due to the barrage.
Since the current assault on Sderot and the western Negev began on Tuesday, police say that 125 rockets have landed in the area - an average of over 20 a day. In recent days, the police's Southern District command have set up shop in Sderot, in order to establish control more quickly in the event of
Shimon Romah, the head of Israel's fire and rescue services, announced Sunday morning that given the continued situation in Sderot, reinforcements would be deployed to the western Negev town. Firefighters from across the
country were scheduled to arrive in Sderot and work in 24-hour rotating shifts in order to relieve the town's exhausted rescue services.
In the midst of Kassam fire Saturday night, the Sderot municipality held a situation assessment during which they decided that local schools would be closed on Sunday morning. Officials said that school would be out until the security risks to students were addressed. Last week, a Kassam landed in a local classroom, causing extensive damage and injuring two teachers.
On Monday, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal is expected to hold a conference call with heads of American Jewish organizations, coordinated by the Israeli Consulate in New York City. Sderot officials said Sunday that they had a long and fruitful working relationship with the New York Consulate, under the direction of Consul-General Ariyeh Makel.
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