Just as Home Front Command expanded the Tzeva Adom warning system to Netivot and other western Negev cities, Hamas rocked Netivot with two Grad rockets on Shabbat (Saturday).
One hit on the edge of town, about a half mile from the center of the city, and the other in the middle of the new market, reminding people how close they are to Sderot, which has already been all but crippled by daily Qassam rocket attacks by Hamas.
“There were no people around because it was Shabbat, but had it happened during the week, the area probably would have been full of people, and there would have been many injuries,” mayoral advisor Haim Zisowitz said.
The alarm system in Netivot uses a siren for the entire city, and uses the Tzeva Adom alarm for the schools, as opposed to in Sderot where the Tzeva Adom is used for the entire city, according to spokesperson Asher Hamias. Also in contrast to the system in Sderot, Netivot residents have approximately 30 seconds, rather than 15, to find safety because the city is situated farther from the Gaza strip than Sderot.
The coming of the alarm system is welcome as a safety precaution for saving lives, but it is another reminder that the currently bustling city of Netivot could easily become like its neighbor, Sderot.
“I am afraid about the situation,” Hamias said. “Right now, not everybody realizes how close we are.”
Today, Netivot is a growing city, he said. People from all over the area and the country want to move there, to the point that despite the current development that is visible throughout the city, it is almost impossible for people who want to move to the city to find a house or even an apartment. Over the past 8-10 years the population has grown by over 10,000. But still, Hamias worries.
“I think that rockets are going to start falling in Netivot and other Negev cities [like in Sderot]. And I am afraid that we will become like Sderot –people will leave, businesses will shut down.”
Netivot, though, is learning from what happened in Sderot, he said. The people are being educated, so they know what to do in case of an attack, they have shelters, and the government and emergency services are constantly preparing for possible emergency scenarios.
“We have been having these preparation sessions for about four months,” Zisowitz said. “We try to educate and prepare our staff to be able to deal with any situation. We have gotten high marks from the IDF on our progress so far.The way the city is taking on the challenge and preparing for any possible situation is a source of hope to Hamias. “Even though, I think the Grads will start coming more often, I have hope that we will be better prepared [than Sderot], and I have belief in the people of Netivot that they will be strong, and the city will survive.”