It's another Sunday morning in southern Israel – time for school – and a teenager in the region woke up and asked, "Were there rockets or do we have school today?"
When there are reports of rocket attacks in the south, especially any “barrage” in the western Negev, most savvy Israeli kids know these days that there's a good chance school may be closed for the day.
Lately their anxious parents – especially the “newbies” -- begin the morning by calling someone to check the status if they have not heard from teachers before it's time to leave.
Today (Sunday), children in the town of Gan Yavne “lucked out” and were told by Regional Council director Dror Aharon that schools would be closed due to rocket fire.
The escalation began Saturday with an anti-tank missile attack on an IDF jeep patrolling the Gaza border near the Karni crossing.
Four soldiers were wounded while driving in a military jeep. Two were airlifted to Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center in serious condition; the other two were rushed to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. Although claimed by the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, IDF sources said it was more likely the Islamic Jihad terror organization.
The IDF retaliated with tank fire, shelling the area around which the attack occurred. It was not clear how many casualties resulted, and IDF spokespersons were unavailable for comment. The Palestinian Authority claimed four were killed and at least 16 were wounded.
As rockets, mortars and missiles were fired at southern Israel, the IDF retaliated by targeting a terrorist cell in northwestern Gaza, killing one, PA sources said.
The Defense Department also ordered the temporary closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing into the region. “The IDF will not risk the lives of the crossing's employees – despite the importance of ensuring goods and humanitarian aid being delivered to Gaza,” said a spokesperson.
In all, more than 30 Kassam short-range rockets, mortar shells and longer-range Grad Katyusha missiles were fired at southern Gaza overnight Saturday night. Civilian Israeli communities that came under fire were located in the Eshkol and Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council districts, as well as in Gedera and Ashdod; few, if any families got any sleep on Saturday night in the western Negev.
The Iron Dome anti-missile battery intercepted at least one missile that was aimed at a major southern Israeli city. A second missile landed on the northern outskirts of the Mediterranean port city of Ashdod, but caused no property damage. Residents suffered anxiety attacks, and those with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had symptoms triggered by the attack.
The attacks continued into Sunday morning, with at least two missiles striking the Ashkelon Coastal region as well as numerous rockets exploding in the Eshkol district. No one was physically injured, and no major property damage was reported.
The Israeli Air Force attacked a number of terrorist targets overnight in response, including two rocket launching sites in northern Gaza, a weapons factory and an ordnance storage site. Direct hits were confirmed on all targets, and all units returned to base unharmed.
Top IDF army brass were set to meet Sunday morning to discuss the situation with government officials, while hundreds of thousands of school children and their parents throughout southern Israel were left wondering whether there will be school -- and if so, where -- on Monday.