Two students were lightly injured and others traumatized Thursday morning when a Kassam rocket slammed into an unfortified second-story classroom in a high school in Sha'ar HaNegev. Graduating students were studying for their final exams on the floor below at the time. One classroom sustained heavy damage.
Another person was lightly wounded shortly after when a rocket crashed into an unfortified school building next to Sapir College in Sderot. Several others suffered anxiety attacks. It was not clear why anyone was in the school building, inasmuch as classes in Sderot were cancelled for a second day on Thursday due to the dangerous conditions.
By midday, 13 rockets had exploded in the area, including one that hit a building, traumatizing a woman and her 9-year-old daughter. Another rocket slammed into a yard next to a house.
We will preserve our daily routine and show Hamas they cannot win.
Later in the morning, several greenhouses were damaged in an attack on a community near southern Gaza.
The "Red Color" rocket launch alert system failed to warn residents of the first incoming missiles, eliminating the chance of reaching whatever shelter might be available in time to avoid the attack. The alert system then wailed through the rest of the morning as Sderot residents scrambled to take cover wherever they could each time a rocket was fired at the city.
School in Sderot was called off for the day. The daily commuter newspaper Yisraeli reported that some of the students will be sent to learn at schools in Be’er Sheva and other southern communities. The Education Department is reportedly trying to find a comprehensive solution for all the city’s students; high school graduation exams are coming up. The option of conducting classes in the bomb shelters is also being considered.
Knesset Finance Committee Meets to Discuss Situation
The Knesset Finance Committee met in Sderot for an emergency session Thursday morning to discuss the situation in Sderot and come up with a plan to improve conditions for besieged residents.
“We are planning to re-open the schools tomorrow and bring the children to fortified classrooms,” said Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal. “We will preserve our daily routine and show Hamas they cannot win,” he added. Mayor Moyal spent hours on Wednesday and again Thursday morning trying to convince fleeing residents to remain in the city.
Traumatized children and their parents, however, have only one thing on their minds. “I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to stay in Sderot, I can’t take it! I don’t want to be with the Kassams,” cried a child who was interviewed by an Army Radio reporter.
To Evacuate or Not?
While Sderot residents were again bracing themselves to face another day of rocket attacks, they were also pondering reports of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s protests, on Wednesday evening, at talk of evacuating the city.
Mr. Olmert had especially harsh words for Russian-born Israeli billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak, who sent 8 buses to evacuate pregnant and nursing mothers and families with children after a parent sent him a desperate appeal for help.
“I am not willing to evacuate Sderot,” he said. “Those are the images Hamas is waiting for, and I am not willing to award terror with victory,” he added in an emergency meeting with Defense Minister Amir Peretz late in the day.
“But what can be done about it?” asked Mr. Peretz, himself a resident of Sderot. “This is the reality.” One of the Hamas-sent rockets slammed into the house next door to the defense minister’s home on Wednesday.
Mr. Peretz had a different complaint: it was not the evacuation he was objecting to, but rather who was making sure it was carried out. “Gaydamak is evacuating people, and he will take over the whole thing,” complained the defense minister. “He sent buses, and we need to consider an evacuation.”
The prime minister retorted, “I don’t need to compete with Gaydamak’s buses.” Peretz responded, “I am talking about a break, not a mass evacuation.”
Sderot residents, when faced with a government official trying to dissuade them from boarding a bus to leave, asked him: “Mister, do you live here? No? Well, live here for a day or two and then talk about it.”
“It’s enough. We’ve had it. We don’t have any more strength left,” said one resident in a call to an Army Radio talk show Thursday morning.
As of Thursday morning, a partial evacuation was being planned by government officials and a hotline was opened for residents to register their desire to leave. Defense Ministry officials arrived in the city to assist residents, taking particular care to tell reporters that the evacuation was a "respite holiday." Mr. Gaydamak, meanwhile, said he would cover the cost of 600 places at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Beersheva.
IDF Confirms Tanks Entered Gaza
IDF officials have confirmed earlier reports that tanks crossed the border fence into northern Gaza on Thursday near the Palestinian Authority town of Beit Lahiyah.
An IDF spokesman told Arutz-7 that the tanks are remaining next to the fence in order to their ability to "more accurately observe the situation."
The tanks are also positioned to fire on terrorists who prepare to launch more Kassam attacks, he said.
FM Warns the World: ‘We Will Have to Take Action’
At least 30 rockets were fired at Sderot on Wednesday, although an IDF spokesman claimed that only 15 actually made it out of Gaza. Nonetheless, those that reached Israel were effective; three people were wounded in direct hits on houses. One of the victims was a 70-year-old woman, who suffered serious injuries. Another rocket ignited a fire in the city’s industrial zone.
Terrorist rocket launchers were not distracted by the internal militia war taking place inside Gaza, nor were they swayed by the IAF missile strike which killed four terrorists and wounded 20 more at Hamas headquarters in the Gaza border town of Rafiah late Wednesday. A second IAF attack killed another terrorist and wounded one more, but Israeli efforts to halt the rocket fire were ineffective.
By evening the security cabinet decided that Israel will have to take action. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz promised Israelis there would be a “harsh response” to the intensified attacks from Gaza. They were not specific about what that action would be, other than to say that targeted assassinations were back on the “approved” list.
And while the security cabinet continued to debate the merits and risks of a ground incursion – which in the end was not approved – the rockets continued to rain down.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni acknowledged that residents’ nerves were being stretched to the breaking point. In a statement issued Thursday morning, Ms. Livni called the situation “unbearable,” noting that “Israel left (Gaza) in order to “give the Palestinians the possibility to create a normal life and not to attack Israel.” She was referring to the 2005 Disengagement Plan in which Israeli leaders assured the public that pulling out of Gaza would bring about an improved security situation.
The PA government is responsible for the incessant attacks, she added. “The fact that terrorist organizations who actually make up part of the government….are involved in this shooting is a situation that, from Israel’s standpoint, is intolerable.”
Ms. Livni issued a blunt warning that Israel was also reaching the breaking point. “We are making it clear to the international community that until now, Israel has shown restraint…We must understand that no one has a magic solution. We will have to act.”