Israeli Cities Under Fire
Sderot: Sderot, with an estimate population of 24,000, is roughly four miles from the town of Beit Hanoun in the Northern Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in late 2000, the city has consistently suffered from Hamas’ Qassam rocket fire, as well as rockets launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant Islamic groups. In the summer of 2007, Palestinian terrorist groups fired over 1,000 rockets at Sderot alone. Despite the imperfect aim of these homemade rockets, they have caused deaths and injuries, as well as significant damage to homes and property, leading to high levels of psychological distress and a emigration from the city. After seven years of rocket attacks, more than 3,000 residents have reportedly fled.
Ashkelon: Located on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, Ashkelon is a city with a population over 100,000, located roughly 9 miles north of Gaza. The city is a favorite rocket target of Palestinian terrorist organizations for several reasons. For one, Ashkelon is more densely populated than Sderot. Thus, rockets have a higher probability of hitting civilians and buildings if they reach this city. Moreover, Ashkelon is home to important Israeli infrastructure, including Bar Ilan University, a power generator, and one of the world's largest water desalination plants. All of these are high-value targets for Palestinian terror groups. Thus, Hamas, PIJ and other groups have established the 9-mile distance from Northern Gaza to Ashkelon as the new gold standard for rocket range.
Netivot: This town lies approximately 7 miles outside of the Gaza Strip. Like Ashkelon, Netivot was previously beyond the reach of the first and second generations of Palestinian rockets. With improved rocket technology, and an unyielding motivation to attack civilians on the part of Hamas, PIJ and other groups, this town of roughly 24,000 is increasingly under threat of rocket fire.