Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Offers No Guarantees

Sderot resident Alona Buchbut is staying at a hotel — not because she is on vacation, but because a Qassam rocket launched from the Gaza Strip struck her house Wednesday night.

An Israel-Hamas cease-fire began at 6 a.m. Thursday, but residents of Sderot, an Israeli city only one kilometer from Gaza, say they doubt it will last. The cease-fire is an attempt to end a year of fighting that has killed 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis, according to The Associated Press.

The Israeli government stresses that this is not a peace deal, but rather a three-day trial period of "calm" to set the stage for further developments, in which Israel plans to ease its economic boycott of Gaza and allow the transfer of raw materials in exchange for quiet in the south.

The second phase of negotiations will place Hamas as the main power in charge of the Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border, theoretically in exchange for the freeing of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured nearly two years ago, on June 25, 2006.

"We have no illusions. The calm is temporary and may be very short," Israeli President Ehud Olmert said, according to Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

Sderot residents have no illusions, either.

"I don't believe in this period of 'calm.' I'm certainly not calm," Buchbut told ABC News.

In the past seven years, 10,000 missiles have been fired into Sderot and the surrounding area, according to the Israel Project, a nonprofit organization working for peace and security within Israel.

"Thursday will be the beginning, we hope, of a new reality where Israeli citizens in the south will no longer be on the receiving end of continuous rocket attacks," Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev told Ha'aretz.

However, upon confirmation of the peace deal Thursday, 15 Qassams were fired into the western Negev region of Israeli. Sderot residents say they expect the rocket attacks to continue.

Buchbut said she and a friend relaxed on the couch in her living room yesterday before leaving to go to a meeting. She received a phone call 10 minutes later that her house had been attacked.

"We returned to the house and it was the same as we left it — except that all the pieces were on the floor," she said. "It was a miracle we were not there."

She added, "I have nothing left. I have no home, no electricity, no nothing. I have clothes in my closet and that's it."

On Wednesday, 21-year-old Sderot resident Nirel Skiori also received the phone call he had always dreaded. His house had been bombed.

Skiori told ABC News that he is used to the rocket attacks. "This was not a surprise," he said. "But I was really angry."

Rushing home from guard duty for his compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces, Skiori arrived to find that the rocket had landed just to the side of his house, damaging the wall and surrounding areas.

His car windows were shattered. The windows in his kitchen were broken. They already had been replaced four times.

The house across the street also had been bombed in the past, Skiori said, as had the intersection a few meters away. "But now it's my house," Skiori said. "The rocket came right in."

Residents' doubts over the cease-fire's success were reinforced as code red alerts sounded five times yesterday, even amid the final negotiations.

"There was one rocket after another," said Revital, a local kindergarten teacher who did not wish to give her last name.

The possibility of peace feels remote to the residents of Sderot.

"We are living governed by war," Revital said. "This war has not been two days or one month. It's been eight years. Everything we know surrounds it. No one can understand it — even people in Israel don't understand it.

"From our perspective here, we don't see any choice but to go to war," she said. "If I thought there was someone reasonable to speak to, I would say let's go ahead and talk. But it's not possible to have a lasting agreement with Hamas."

Shalom Halevi, spokesperson for the mayor's office, agreed.

"Hamas has broken all agreements in the past. When a group decides that it wants to destroy Israel, what do you think they're doing during the cease-fire? They're taking the next few days to prepare for another attack."

Some Sderot residents, however, appreciated the few hours of calm so far.

"The important thing is that there is calm right now," said Eli Amar, 33. "Whether or not it lasts does not depend on us as citizens, it depends on both sides."

Halevi however believes that the cease-fire is a mistake and that Israel and the international community should begin military activities within Gaza.

"If we give in to the terrorists like Hamas, if we let terror succeed here today, then tomorrow it will be all over the country," he said. "Then it will be all over the world. The international community must wake up."

Ruth Margolin is media coordinator for the Israel Project and a resident of Sderot.

She acknowledges the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza. "Kids are the same. Mothers are the same," she said. "But when you choose Hamas you choose terror. With terror, people will be killed on both sides."

She said, "I really hope the next few days will be quiet."