Israeli Kids Back to School, Despite Threats

Jerusalem, Mar. 18 – Despite Palestinian terrorists in Gaza firing a rocket at Israel on the weekend, officials reopened schools in southern Israel Sunday following a week in which at least 119 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli towns and cities.

Some 200,000 school children returned to classes after educational institutions within 24 miles (40km) of the Gaza Strip were closed most of last week as Palestinian terrorists fired anti-personnel rockets despite an Egyptian brokered agreement to halt the attacks.

"What we seek with our rockets is not to kill Israelis, but to maintain a balance of terror," a senior leader of Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigade said in an interview with  the AFP news agency.

At least five terrorist groups in Gaza, ruled by the Iran-backed Hamas organization that itself is recognized as a terrorist group by western democracies, claimed responsibility for firing over 200 rockets and mortars at Israel in the latest escalation of violence that began March 9.

Schools reopened last Monday for one day following the agreement, but Israeli officials took no chances and kept schools closed after one rocket exploded that evening in the town of Netivot injuring one resident, and the Iron Dome anti-missile system downed more rockets aimed at the cities of Ashdod and Beersheba – where a rocket detonated in a schoolyard on March 11.

"Stopping the Grad rockets brings a temporary quiet in the big cities, but in the communities around Gaza our fortifications protect the lives of the residents who continue with their daily routine,” Haim Yellin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council said told the Maariv newspaper. Yellin pointed out that terrorists in Gaza have been shooting rockets and mortars at civilians in his district for more than 11 years.

Israeli areas around Gaza have been hit with an average of more than 10 rockets and mortars a week since 2001. Schools in Yellin’s Eshkol district have been fortified with reinforced concrete shielding and bus stops in the area were converted into bomb shelters.

Last week terrorists targeted Beersheba with medium range Grad rockets, whose warheads are packed with hundreds of steel ball bearings to make them deadlier. Tal Fogel, 14, had to celebrate her birthday in a bomb shelter with only a few friends.

“It really depressed me because I wanted to go out but there were air raid sirens,” Tal said in Maariv newspaper interview. “In the end I partied with my friends but it was depressing. It’s sitting in your house and getting bombs for your birthday. You’re already used to rockets, to explosions and you celebrate knowing that any second there will be a rocket, every second is a siren and every minute you’re in the shelter from the fear. Even those I invited couldn’t come because their parents were afraid to send them even though we have a shelter.”

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