Responding to a barrage of Qassam rockets fired at his town, the mayor of a large Israeli Negev community yesterday closed all schools, highlighting growing concerns Jewish neighborhoods near the Gaza border are vulnerable to ongoing Palestinian attack.
“To all parents: The kindergarten is closed today by order of the Home Front Command and the mayor due to the security situation. We appreciate your understanding for the sake of the children’s safety,” read a note placed on one school in Sderot, just a few miles south of Gaza.
Similar notes were plastered on schools throughout Sderot following the firing Friday of 21 Qassam rockets at the town, wounding six residents. Twelve of the Qassams landed near schools, one hitting the side of a classroom building.
This morning, another Qassam smashed into Sderot, and several mortars were launched from northern Gaza into a nearby Jewish community. No injuries were reported.
“I took the responsibility that nobody else wanted to take,” said Sderot mayor Eli Moyal, defending his decision to shut down the schools. “I was told there would be Qassam fire today and they told me to decide, so I decided. I couldn’t take the risk.”
Moyal demanded the Israeli government immediately fortify classrooms and children’s facilities, explaining his town is in the direct line of fire of the Gaza Strip, now under the complete control of the Palestinians after Israel withdrew its troops from the area earlier this month.
As WND reported, the Israeli Defense Forces have been going from school to school in some 40 Negev towns, preparing Jewish children to get used to living under the threat of attack, teaching them about Qassam rockets and terrorist infiltrations.
“We teach them about the threats and how to defend against them. Like reporting suspicious objects and finding shelter from gunfire,” said a spokesman for the IDF’s Home Front Command, which has been leading the education effort.
As part of the lesson, the children are asked to draw a Qassam rocket and are shown a diagram that explains the makeup and firing qualities of the Palestinian rocket.
The students are told not all Qassam attacks are deadly, the spokesman explained.
“The majority of rockets land in open fields; that’s a statistical fact. Those attacks, if one is inside or not near, won’t kill or physically hurt anyone.”
The children also are given a booklet that asks them to write their feelings about different kinds of attacks and tests their preparedness for specific attacks.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the most recent rocket attacks, with Hamas claiming it will not fire any more rockets from Gaza.
“The movement declares an end to its operations from the Gaza Strip against the Israeli occupation, which came … in response to the assaults by the enemy,” Hamas’ Gaza leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said yesterday.
But WND broke the story that Hamas recently announced on its official website it will begin the next phase of its war to destroy the Jewish state by launching Qassam rockets instead of focusing on suicide bombings.
“Afula, Hadera, Beit She’an, Netanya, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities will all fall within the range of the Qassam rocket. … The implication is that this rocket, which was previously looked upon with disdain by many, will serve as the weapon of choice in the coming period of time, as the acts of suicide martyrdom served as the weapon of choice during all the previous years,” stated the Hamas site.
“From a technical standpoint, the Zionist army presently does not have any means to intercept an airborne Qassam rocket,” Hamas explained. “A pre-emptive strike against the attacking cell is a complicated and almost impossible affair.”
Qassams are relatively unsophisticated steel rockets, about four feet in length, filled with explosives and fuel. They lack a guidance system and are launched by terrorists in nearby towns who reportedly use the rocket’s trajectory and known travel distance to aim at a particular Jewish community.
About 20 percent of Qassams do not explode upon impact.
“As far as rockets go, they may be low tech, but if they land in a population center, they’re incredibly deadly,” Ami Shaked, former chief security coordinator for Gaza’s now evacuated Jewish communities, told WND.