BE’ER SHEVA (JWN and agencies)—Palestinian terrorists continued to launch barrages of rockets and mortar fire at civilian targets in southern Israel, with at least 50 rockets hitting populated areas since Monday night.
The latest attacks came Wednesday morning, when a Russian-made Grad artillery rocket first exploded in a field near Be’er Sheva, causing no casualties no damage. This was followed shortly by three Kassam rockets, which exploded in an open area in the nearby Eshkol region.
The rocket fire continued Wednesday morning, with at least 12 more rockets hitting the Ashkelon Coast and Eshkol Regional Council areas. There were no casualties, but one building was damaged.
Meanwhile, the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted a rocket fired at Netivot for the first time on Wednesday. Another rocket, fired during the same barrage, scored a direct hit on a home in the Sdot Negev Regional council, but the family escaped injury, suffering only from shock.
On Tuesday seven rockets landed in the Lachish region and 22 landed in the Negev. Area residents were ordered to stay close to bomb shelters throughout the day.
Late Tuesday night, four border policemen were wounded by shrapnel near Ashkelon, one of them moderately, when a Kassam rocket hit an apartment building.
The Home Front Command instructed the area’s residents to stay very close to shelters and other fortified structures.
As Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with security officials late Tuesday night to consider opens, Israel Air Force planes struck seven terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation. Israel is expected to escalate its response to the worst series of attacks in months.
The sudden escalation of terrorist attacks has thrown area residents into an all-too-familiar coping routine. Officials at Sapir College near Sderot canceled a graduation ceremony scheduled for Tuesday evening under threat of the ongoing rocket fire. High school and middle school students began their summer vacation Wednesday.
Elementary schools in the Eshkol Regional Council opened as usual Wednesday, despite the constant rocket fire. However, the Ma’agalim school in the Sdot Negev Council remained closed.
“The government said it would provide us with miguniyot [concrete bomb shelters], but we will be getting them only in September,” lamented Avidan Califa, head of the school’s PTA.
“We won’t be sending our kids to school until a solution is found or calm is restored. The state has yet to come to its senses and hasn’t eradicated the rocket fire,” he said.
Netivot mother Ya’arit Trabelsi, whose children attend Ma’agalim, said, “We have no choice but to stay at home with them. It’s better this way, because we have a fortified room at home. It’s dangerous to send them to an unfortified school, particularly after a Grad rocket fell close by in the previous round of violence.
“Those who live in the South know that it’s problematic to send our kids to school. They are very afraid,” she said.
“The more things deteriorate, the closer we come to a decision we don’t want to make,” Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio. “The prospect of a ground operation [in the Gaza Strip] shouldn’t frighten us.”
“If this situation escalates, and I hope it won’t, then all options are open,” he said. “They know it. We know it. The international community knows it.”