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Gaza: Israel Launches 'Citizen's War Room'
The Eshkol region runs two thirds of the length of Israel's border with Gaza and consequently has suffered most from the persistent rocket attacks fired by militants from the strip.
Locals say that more than half of all of the hundreds of rockets and mortars that have targeted Israel in the last week have been aimed at Eshkol.
It is a farming area and provides much of Israel's home-grown produce. The area is also covered with Kibbutz.
The number of attacks from Gaza and the proximity of Eshkol to the Hamas-controlled enclave, has led the 14,000 or so residents to set up their own emergency control centre.
They call it their 'War Room'. It warns of incoming missiles and assists neighbours when and if they are hit by them. It has a direct link to the Israeli Defence Forces, but is staffed entirely by civilians.
Many of the families who live in Eshkol have sent their children north to stay with friends or relatives to keep them safe from the rocket attacks.
In just 20 minutes, while we were talking to 'Eyal' in the Sufa Kibbutz, two mortars whizzed over our heads and exploded harmlessly behind us.
They are over Eshkol before the warning system can even kick in. As the second lands with a loud thump, 'Eyal' calmly tells us: "That was an unannounced mortar; welcome to Israel."
In the War Room, down two flights of steps deep underground and safe from overhead rockets, the emergency council meets around a long table to discuss their safety plans.
Next door in the information room a bank of computers, telephones and maps monitor the airwaves for rocket warnings. Tamara Cohen, who in more peaceful times is the mayor's PA, acts as emergency co-ordinator.
When asked how long the residents have to take cover after a rocket is launched, she says: "We have 15 seconds at the most. Most of the time less than that."
Asked what you can do such little time, her answer is succinct: "Run, run fast."
The people of Eshkol are advised not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, which is why the roads are all but deserted.
Those vehicles that are moving around now tend to be military; tanks, Humvees and armoured personnel carriers.
Israel has made it clear that if air strikes do not silence the rockets from Gaza then the army will launch a ground offensive into the strip by sea.
Most in Eshkol see it as the only realistic long-term solution. "We have to think what will happen if we stop it now," says council member Ronit Minaker.
"What will be the next day? Will we still have rockets here on our citizens? We can't allow that, no one can allow it."
It is a view echoed by the council's head of information, Boaz Kretchmer, whose son is in the Israeli army. "I'm not Chief of Staff of Israel, but I believe it should go on until it will be a solution for a long term," he says.
Asked if that means a ground war is inevitable, he says: "Yes."