Netivot Grad - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - March 2012
Rescue personnel inspecting the site of a Grad rocket strike near Netivot yesterday. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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Rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel continued yesterday, despite the cease-fire announced on Tuesday.

Three Grad rockets were fired at Be'er Sheva, of which two were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system while the third landed in an empty field near Netivot, not far from a school. Another Grad rocket was intercepted last night above Ashdod. However, there were no casualties and no property damage.

Due to the rocket fire, mayors of several southern cities decided to close school today, overriding the Home Front Command's recommendation to keep the schools open. Schools will be shut today in Be'er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ofakim, Gan Yavneh and Kiryat Malakhi, most of which closed school yesterday as well.

Roughly 70 percent of students in the south did attend school yesterday, but after the Grad fell near Netivot, some parents came to collect their children. Parents of pupils at the nearby Ma'agalim school in the Sdot Negev Regional Council also decided to close the school after the Grad landed near Netivot.

The Home Front Command's recommendation to keep schools open yesterday upset many southern mayors.

"If they want to open schools, they should come and speak to pupils and their parents," said Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin. "After the cease-fire, three missiles were fired at Ashkelon. Two were intercepted, and one fell in an open field. Today a missile was fired at Netivot, and yesterday rockets were fired at Be'er Sheva. Under such circumstances, I can't send children to school. Many residents asked to keep their children at home out of fear. We don't think there really is a cease-fire."

"We've developed a clear equation: If there are missiles, there are no classes," agreed Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri, explaining that while the army deals with statistics, mayors must deal with the public's feelings. "Our cautiousness has proven itself," he added.

Be'er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich said his city will resume its normal routine only when there is absolute quiet.

"So long as missiles are fired at Be'er Sheva, the children won't return to classes," he said. "Some municipal leaders don't use their discretion; they simply do what the Home Front Command recommends. We do things differently."

"There is no cease-fire," he added. "Missiles continue to be fired at Be'er Sheva. I'm not willing to accept that as routine."

Ofakim Mayor Zvika Gringold initially disagreed with his colleagues. "It's not right when some mayors decide on their own whether or not to heed the Home Front Command's orders," he said. "I ordered classes to be held as normal, in keeping with the Home Front Command's advice. The big-city mayors' decision not to open the schools caused confusion. The Home Front Command must put a stop to this."

Yet in the end, he, too, decided to close school today.