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In a response to the High Court of Justice, the state said yesterday there was no way to protect Sderot schoolchildren from the threat of Qassam missiles, because it would be impossible to reinforce all classrooms in the city before the start of school next fall. The state is asking the court to reject two petitions filed by Sderot residents demanding the reinforcement of all educational institutions in Sderot and environs against Qassams.

"There is no disputing that studying in the non-reinforced classrooms entails a certain security risk to students," the state argued in its response. "However, it seems that for the time being, there is no alternative. This risk is not significantly different from the risk to which students are exposed en route from home to school and back, by bus or private car, which of course are not reinforced against Qassam missiles, or from the risk to which they are exposed during the day when they are in many other places besides reinforced classrooms, such as other parts of the school, extracurricular activities, places of entertainment and various public institutions and even in their homes, many of which are within missile range and are not reinforced. The state does aspire to provide 100-percent protection to every inhabitant - and certainly to every child - but it is obvious that this goal could only be achieved in a utopian world. In reality, all the state can do is attempt to get as close as possible to that goal, within the bounds of the limitations and circumstances within which it operates. The most that the state can provide to the schoolchildren in the Gaza envelope communities is protection during most school hours, and the protection of the homerooms only."

The petitions, filed by the Parents Committee in Sderot, and parents of students at the Sha'ar Hanegev regional school, ask the court to instruct the Defense Ministry to immediately reinforce the roofs of all educational institutions in Sderot or to provide an alternative solution that will protect the buildings from Qassams, and to provide NIS 210 million immediately to Sderot and nearby communities to complete "critical" reinforcement programs, including those for the city's schools.

In its response, the state promised to complete the reinforcement of homeroom classrooms only in Sha'ar Hanegev by November 23, but reinforcement work on the 24 other schools in the area is not expected to be completed before next autumn.

The state claims that the NIS 210 million budget promised for the reinforcement of the Gaza envelope communities was already disbursed to the Home Front Command, and was used to secure communities near the Gaza border against terrorist infiltration.

The state further claimed that in June, after a Qassam fell in a Sderot schoolyard, the defense minister ordered the reinforcement of the city's schools, and a NIS 75 million budget was allotted for the reinforcement of 48 educational institutions in the region.