Three killed in Kiryat Malachi – update from Ira Kerem, TIPS partnership representative in Israel

Ever since terrorists based in Gaza started firing missiles into Israel several years ago, the residents of Kiryat Malachi have been worried.  Over the years, missiles have fallen around the town but have landed in open areas just outside of the municipal borders.  All of that changed this morning at 8:32 Israel time when a Grad missile hit a residential building in Kiryat Malachi’s Habad neighborhood.  The missile exploded in two neighboring apartments on the 4th floor.  Two women and a man in their 30s were killed.  A four year old boy was seriously wounded and two others including an infant were moderately wounded.  Another six were lightly wounded.

Around 8:00 AM sirens began sounding.  Loud booms were heard from rockets landing nearby and then an enormous boom when the rocket landed in the town.  While most of the residents had moved into the stairwells and shelters of the apartment building, those who were killed and seriously wounded were hit in rooms next to the exterior walls of the building.  The National Police Director cited the fact that the people in that building were religious, many without TVs, and many unaware what to do when the sirens began. He also asked that Israelis living in the 40 kilometer zone near Gaza stay in protected rooms and not leave for errands and certainly not to come to Kiryat Malachi to see the damage. Since the explosion, people in Kiryat Malachi have remained mostly in shelters with most businesses and places of work being closed.  Schools had been closed since yesterday in Kiryat Malachi and in all the communities within 40 kilometers from Gaza.

Kiryat Malachi has been in a state of shock and people are very worried.  Being a small town, many people knew the families. The town now feels that it is targeted and this has a great impact on everyone’s mental health.  The emergency command center is fully operational and Dvora has been there all morning. Psychologists, social workers, religious leaders and educators have been mobilized to work with the families of those killed and injured as well as preparing.  The social workers are also involved with finding homes for residents under the auspices of the Welfare Department who are suffering from shock.  Work is being done to plan for the immediate future if the missiles continue to fall.  The community center and afternoon programs are planning to carry out programs in protected areas starting Sunday if the attacks continue.  This might include taking kids out of the town on organized programs for the day.  The communities from abroad might be asked to help in funding if it actually takes place.

In Hof Ashkelon, missiles have fallen in open areas and sirens have been sounding all morning. The roads from 8 kilometers from the Gaza border have been closed to through traffic.  People are being told to prepare for an emergency situation that will last at least a week’s time.

More than 200 missiles have fallen on Israel since 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon when the Israeli air force killed Ahmed Jabari, the military commander of Hamas.  While ignoring its own missile and mortar attacks on Israel over the last week, the organization has declared the targeted killing of Jabari as an act of war.  Experts and commentators believe that the intensity of the attacks on both sides will continue to grow.

I am sure that an e-mail or call from America to friends in Israel in our partnership region will be appreciated.  Right now, Dvora and Yaffa Cohen, and Yossi Peretz are incredibly busy but hopefully later on today, they will have a little time to talk.  Otherwise, those of you who have made friends with the teens or adults from the region a call would be welcome, even an e-mail to say that your thoughts and prayers are with them would be appreciated.