Parents in the city of Ashkelon elected to keep their elementary school children home on Monday, worried about their safety in light of increased rocket attacks from Gaza. Hamas and allied terrorists have continued to fire missiles at southern Israeli communities following Israel's counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead, which ended in a unilateral ceasefire on January 18.
Gaza terrorists fired a rocket at southern Israel on Monday morning as leaders of donor nations gathered in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss funding to rebuild infrastructure in the terrorist-ruled region. The rocket fell short of its mark, landing within Gaza. No injuries were reported.
Advanced Grad Missiles Aimed at Ashkelon
A fortified school in Ashkelon, closed for the Sabbath, was severely damaged in one of the rocket attacks that also struck several areas that had previously been deemed safe by Home Front Command. As a result, the Ashkelon Parents Committee called for a strike to protest the government's failure to properly fortify the city's 130 schools and protect their children from the attacks.
The rocket that hit the school was more powerful than previous missiles that have wreaked havoc in southern Israel and blasted through the building's fortifications designed to protect teachers and students from injuries.
In fact, two of these more advanced 170-mm versions of the Grad missiles -- that had reached as far as Ashdod, Be'er Sheva and Yavne during the recent war -- slammed into Ashkelon on Saturday morning. The second missile, which landed in the street, had embedded itself with such force that it required two tractors to pull it from the ground.
A total of eleven rockets were fired at southern Israel between Friday night and Sunday morning, including another Grad missile that struck Ashkelon again at around midnight Saturday.
On Sunday night, Gaza terrorists continued to pepper the western Negev with a volley of seven short and long-range rockets, including one that landed once again on the southern outskirts of the coastal city of Ashkelon.
A short-range Kassam rocket also exploded in the yard of a home in the Gaza Belt community of Sderot, located less than a mile from the security barrier. The house was damaged in the attack, and the residents escaped injury - or worse - because they were not home at the time.
Five other missiles exploded in various areas around the Sdot Negev region. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. Earlier in the day, Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair met with Sderot Mayor David Buskila and witnessed first-hand some of the damage caused by Gaza rockets.
Olmert: 'Painful, Sharp, Strong, Uncompromising Response'
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed a "painful, sharp, strong and uncompromising response by the security forces, led by the IDF" in his opening statement at the Cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Olmert said that the government had taken into account "the possibility that firing by the terrorist organizations might resume." However, he added, israel would respond "in accordance with the policy we have declared, i.e. that the Israeli response will -- in no way -- be what the terrorist organizations expect."
Such a response, Olmert said, would be implemented "until the terrorist organizations understand that this way [terrorism] is one which the State of Israel cannot in any way accept or countenance."