Government, billionaire spar over care of rocket refugees

Thursday, May 24, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

The government of Israel and Russian-Israeli tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak have engaged in a full-fledged sparring match over who can better care for the beleaguered residents of the rocket-battered southern town of Sderot.

Both the government and Gaydamak have over the past week been evacuating Sderot residents for short vacations from the constant Palestinian rocket fire emanating from nearby Gaza.

But Gaydamak wants to make the vacations a little more long-term, and intends to remove as many residents as possible to tent cities he is having built until Sderot is again a safe place to live.

Two tent cities being constructed by the billionaire were expected to be completed on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Thursday. Together, they will house nearly 3,000 evacuees.

The entire affair has reportedly left Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fuming.

Earlier in the week, the Olmert's office issued a statement insisting the government was perfectly capable of providing Sderot's residents with respite from the violence, and noted that it had already put several hundred up in hotels around the country for a few nights each.

The government statement urged both the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv municipalities to refuse to allow Gaydamak to set up his tent cities and thereby compete with the proper authorities for care of the public.

In a separate announcement, Olmert said that Israel had no way to put an end to the daily Palestinian rocket barrages on Sderot.

The army and other security agencies have suggested otherwise, pressing Olmert and his cabinet to authorize a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza in order to crush the terrorist infrastructure embedded there.

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