Israel Air Force aircraft fired missiles toward the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis Sunday afternoon, shortly after Islamic Jihad militants fired three Qassam rockets at the western Negev.

The militant group reported that the IAF missiles barely missed a vehicle carrying its members. The Israel Defense Forces said it had targeted a vehicle carrying an Islamic Jihad rocket lauching cell.

Rescue workers in Khan Yunis said three people were slightly hurt in the missile strike.

Thr Qassam rockets fired earlier Sunday landed in open areas north of the western Negev town of Sderot, amid high tensions in the area as students returned to school.

The rockets caused no damage or injuries. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Following the Qassam strike, the IAF carried out a strike in northern Gaza against what it said were armed rocket launchers aimed at Israel. Palestinian sources reported that no one had been hurt in the strike.

Students in the majority of the country's state schools began the school year Sunday, although schools in Arab communities opened Saturday.

Wary parents in Sderot, a frequent target of Palestinian rocket fire, had threatened not to send their children to school, but lifted the strike threat after being promised the schools were properly protected and shelters upgraded.

According to the parents, the government has pledged to build six new schools, as the parents had requested. The state also promised to reinforce the existing schools, to double the number of buses in the school transportation fleets, to refrain from cutting hours from the standard school day, to refrain from firing teachers and to find solutions for the unprotected schools and school bus stations.

"The situation is hard but we try to be OK and encourage the kids," said Ifat Sabag, a mother in this working class town of 22,000 residents. It is better ... to begin the year like everyone instead of staying home."

Alon Davidi, a Sderot resident taking his children to school, said the government had to protect the people of Sderot by rooting out the threat across the border. "The solution is not in Sderot. The solution is Gaza. The terrorists are in Gaza," he said.

In recent years, Sderot has been pummeled by thousands of homemade rockets launched from the neighboring Gaza Strip. In August alone, some 300 rockets were fired at the area, the IDF said, and on Saturday night, a rocket landed near an abandoned school.

To calm jittery residents, the army dispatched more than 200 soldiers to accompany the students back to school in Sderot and instruct them on emergency procedures.

"We are determined to open the year here in Sderot and protect the kids even though we understand that there is s still a threat and we cannot neglect it," said Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who toured Sderot's schools Sunday in a show of support for the town.

Meanwhile, Sha'ar Hanegev's 560 elementary school students and their teachers were relocated Sunday to areas outside of the range of Qassam rocket fire.

"I am very excited, because today we are studying far from the Qassams, and we won't hear the Color Red [rocket] alert in the middle of class," said a local fifth grade teacher Sunday.

Fourth through sixth graders began studying at Kibbutz Ruhama, while first through third graders are studying at Kibbutz Brur Hayil until the necessary caravans are brought to Kibbutz Ruhama.

Kibbutz Ruhama was unable to adequately prepare for the influx of students due to the fact that the transfer was only approved two weeks ago.

The decision to transfer the students outside of the rocket range was made following a request by the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. A new, fortified school is currently under construction, and will replace the old elementary school.

Middle and high school students are studying in fortified classrooms in Sha'ar Hanegev.