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West Bank: Strewn With Broken Glass And Caught In The Crosshairs


One oddity about this confrontation between Hamas and Israel has been that for the first time ever some Palestinian rockets have landed in areas where Palestinians live, in the West Bank. Daniel Estrin spoke with some who have found themselves caught in the crosshairs.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: On Friday evening a rocket smashed into the ground in front of a house in the Palestinian village of Sa'ir. The floors are still covered with shattered glass. Ishra Shalaldeh was in the kitchen when it happened.

ISHRA SHALALDEH: (Through translator) I was inside and suddenly the house shook. Glass was flying all over the house. My fiance was on the balcony, he saw the rocket coming and he got scared and ran inside.

ESTRIN: This wasn't supposed to happen, just a few hours before the rocket attack, Hamas spokesman, Fauzi Barhoum went on Hamas TV an told Arabs in the line of fire they shouldn't be scared.


FAUZI BARHOUM: (Through translator) Our rockets will not touch you, we know the geography. Our rockets will not hit one Arab Palestinian child. Our rockets are aimed at the Israelis.

ESTRIN: They may be aimed at Israelis but they fall where they may. The Israeli Army says about seven rockets so far have fallen in Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Rockets haven't landed in the West Bank since the Gulf War, the army says, those were misfired Iraqi missiles. Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner an Israeli Army spokesman says Israel offered Palestinian cities and towns to set up air raid sirens, none accepted the offer.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL PETER LERNER: We can't force them to take this mechanism - it's a defensive mechanism and they can't, if they don't feel that they don't want too then we can't really force it on them.

ESTRIN: Lerner said last week Israel give safety instructions to Palestinian security officials to distribute throughout the West Bank so civilians would know how to take cover in case of rocket fire. Ajwad Mtour of the Sa'ir Municipality said the town didn't receive any such instructions. He says for Palestinians the very act of seeking shelter would be like treason.

AJWAD MTOUR: (Through translator) Even if a house were to be demolished and six or seven people were to be killed as a result of a rocket coming from Gaza, we will sacrifice for the sake of Gaza.

ESTRIN: There's some reticence among Palestinians to shine a spotlight on the rockets that have hit the West Bank. NPR was the first media to visit Shalaldeh's damaged home. For decades Israeli conventional wisdom was that Jerusalem was safe from rocket fire not because of the iron Dome anti-missile defense system but because of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest spots in the world for Islam. But rockets have been aimed at Jerusalem too. Unlike in mostly Jewish West Jerusalem, in Arab East Jerusalem there are no public shelters, just safe rooms and some schools and community centers. When sirens had wailed in Jerusalem some Palestinians in the city went outside to cheer, some say they're fighting with Hamas against Israel. But not everyone agrees with that.

Rockets have fallen within Israel hitting areas where its Arab citizens live. To young Arab Israeli girls suffered injuries today from a rocket that landed on their town. One Arab woman with Israeli citizenship I spoke said she was at an Israeli mall last week when a siren went off, she ran for cover with other Israelis in the malls bombshelter. But she said she felt the piercing eyes of the Israelis in the shelter looking at her in her Muslim head scarf. She didn't give her name for fear of reaction from her neighbors but she says she just wishes both sides would stop the fighting. For NPR News I'm Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
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