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Avi Panzer, standing next to his wife, Lucy, shows the remain of a rocket that they believe was fired by Palestinian militants to an area in Netiv Haasara, where they live, near the Israel-Gaza border on Aug. 6, 2014. / Tsafrir Abayov, AP

NETIV HAASARA, Israel - A rocket fired from Gaza slammed into Adi Ben-Ari's patio here after bouncing off the roof of her neighbor's home as a temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas broke down just hours before it was set to expire.

The blast blew out Ben-Ari's windows, sending thousands of glass shards flying through her house and taking out the community's electricity.

"I've lived on Netiv Haasara for 32 years, but it's becoming impossible to raise our children here," Ben-Ari said as she surveyed the damage earlier this week, thankful neither she nor her 11-year-old son was home at the time of the blast.

Netiv Haasara was founded in 1982 by a group of Israelis uprooted from their homes in the Sinai when Israel returned the territory to Egypt as part of the 1978 Camp David peace agreement. It was once an idyllic place to live. The community, the closet to the Israel-Gaza border, is a suburban oasis of single-family houses with generous gardens and a swimming pool.

But for the past 14 years, Netiv Haasara has been hit intermittently by mortars and rockets, including one that killed a resident here in 2005. In 2007, militants attempting to infiltrate Israel through here were killed by Israeli soldiers.

A 2012 cease-fire between Israel and Hamas brought dramatic improvement, but that peace was shattered more than a month ago when the current conflict began.

Since July 8, nearly 3,700 rockets have been fired into Israel, according to the Israeli military, and a large number of those have fallen within a 25-mile radius of the border. At the same time, the Israeli army discovered that Hamas had built many underground tunnels leading into Israel, creating even more fear for those living on the border.

The attacks forced thousands of southerners to flee to the north and center of the country. Most returned home last week, when a truce went into effect and quiet was more or less restored to the area.

But that calm didn't last long, as fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas resumed Tuesday.

The Israeli military said a 4-year-old boy was killed in a mortar attack Friday evening in Sdot Negev, a southern Israeli town located about 18 miles from Netiv Haasara. The death was the first since the conflict resumed earlier this week and raises the Israeli toll to 68 killed, 64 of those soldiers, according to the Israeli military.

At the same time, more than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed since July 8, with dozens of those deaths coming in the days since hostilities resumed Tuesday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Ofri Volk, who moved to Netiv Haasara 12 years ago with her husband and three children, said the temporary cease-fire had given her hope that the war was ending.

"For the first time, I felt I could take a deep breath. I was hopeful, let my guard down. That makes the end of the truce that much more disheartening," she said.

Now, she said, everyone is afraid, especially the children.

"Living like this affects every part of your life," Volk said. "Some of our children are in very bad shape emotionally. My 13-year-old daughter suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder."

As Israel and Hamas traded fire Wednesday, Netiv Haasara officials hurriedly arranged for the re-evacuation of 60 families, made up mostly of children and the elderly, to Jerusalem.

Residents jumped at the muffled booms made by incoming rockets or mortars that landed a few miles away, as they dashed to the nearest shelter - located about every 100 yards - each time the community's loudspeaker system intoned "Red Alert," signaling an incoming projectile would land in the vicinity within 15 seconds.

The strain of the renewed conflict showed on the face of Maayan Shneor as she tried to keep her children, ages 6, 4 and 3 months, busy while she arranged for their evacuation. They spent much of the morning at the on-site preschool because of its large bomb shelter.

"There are millions of Red Alerts. The children are a mess. We returned last week after spending four weeks away, going from place to place," she said. "School starts next week, and I don't know what we're going to do."

Alison Gross of West Hempstead, N.Y., who was visiting Netiv Haasara for the day with her 16-year-old son in order to deliver supplies donated by her local Jewish community, said people outside Israel have no idea how much the southerners are suffering.

"I'm confident the U.S. government would respond forcefully if its citizens were under this kind of attack," she said. "(President Obama) really shouldn't tell (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu how to defend his country."

Volk blamed her own government for doing too little, too late, to stop militants in Gaza from firing on Israel.

"Fourteen years ago, the rockets were a drizzle that has since turned into a full-fledged storm," she said. "Had the government done something earlier, we wouldn't be in this situation."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Israelis shell-shocked as Gaza rockets hit south

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