Despite Hezbollah attack, Israeli community goes on But the town is skeptical about truce agreement

April 28, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KIRYAT SHEMONA, Israel -- Minutes before a 4 a.m. cease-fire went into effect yesterday morning, a last Katyusha rocket fired by Hezbollah guerrillas smashed into an apartment building in the heart of this border town, shaking an underground shelter where Aviva Ohion was sleeping with her family.

They were still in the shelter six hours later, even as neighbors were venturing outside to stroll the streets freely for the first time in more than two weeks.

"They say there's a cease-fire, but we're still doubtful," said Mrs. Ohion as she hung back in the shelter. "We're still afraid of that sudden whoosh."

But all around the shelter, there were signs that this working-class community of 22,000 -- a ghost town for the past 16 days -- was starting to come back to life.

The few thousand residents who had not left Kiryat Shemona during the cross-border fighting emerged from their shelters to a calm morning of the Jewish Sabbath, free of rocket blasts and the boom of Israeli artillery on a ridge above town.

Families took walks, peering at sites where rockets had fallen, surveying damage and collecting pieces of shrapnel as souvenirs. In one neighborhood, children gaped at a kindergarten whose roof had been torn open by a Katyusha, and gathered with their parents around a crater.

There was relief tempered by skepticism, a sense that while the worst was over for now, no one knew how long the calm would last. Few residents were confident that the guerrillas would hold their fire for good.

Michal Malka, like most other residents here, predicted that this latest agreement would fall apart just as the last one did.

"I feel a little secure, and a little bit insecure," Mrs. Malka said as she watched her children play outside.

"I'm worried that in a few weeks or months, trouble will start all over again, and every time there's a flare-up between the army and Hezbollah, we'll suffer.

"We've gone back to 1993, and we're hostages of Hezbollah. I don't trust them."

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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