Student Killed in Negev College as Qassam Barrage Intensifies

47-year-old father of four, Roni Yechiah, dies of shrapnel wounds as number of Qassam rockets hits 50.

Around 50 Palestinian rockets hit the western Negev on Wednesday, with one of them slamming into Sapir College near Sderot and killing a 47-year-old student. Another exploded on the helipad of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, while the hospital was treating casualties from Sderot.

The deceased, Roni Yechiah from the town of Btecha in the western Negev, was inside his car in Sapir's parking lot. He died of shrapnel wounds to the chest. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Yechiah is survived by his wife, Esther, and four children: Niv, who is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces, Lital, a 17-year-old high school pupil, her 14-year-old sister Coral and 8-year-old brother Idan.

The head of the Merchavim Regional Council, Avner Mory, was Yechiah's distant relative. He said Roni Yechiah is survived by 10 brothers. He recalled that five years ago, the family struggled to fund a badly-needed kidney transplant for Yechiah.

Before the transplant, Mory said, Yechiah worked for a large construction company as the operator of a cement-mixer. Yechiah began studying logistics at Sapir after completing a long process of convalescence. His funeral is scheduled to take place today at 3 P.M. at the Btecha cemetery.

Yechiah was the first Israeli killed by a rocket since May, when two died in separate attacks. "We call on the government to do everything it possibly can to stop this carnage," Mory said.

"The people of Sderot and the towns around the Gaza Strip must not be made to live their lives like this, not knowing whether they will be next," he added.

Ashkelon received two Katyusha rockets in addition to the one that hit the hospital. One of the Katyushas hit the town's southern industrial zone, and another exploded in the middle of a residential area inside the neighborhood of Shimshon. No one was injured in Ashkelon.

Barzilai's director, Dr. Shimon Sherf, said hospital teams were busy finding better protected areas inside the hospital for the premature-baby department.

For the time being, Ashkelon's city council decided against implementing the Color Red rocket-launch detection system. In a meeting with police representatives, the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command, Magen David Emergency Services and the fire brigade, the council was informed that the system could be switched on within six hours.

So far, Mayor Roni Mahatzri has refrained from employing the system, reportedly fearing widespread panic. Ashkelon officials said the system would produce a large number of false alarms, as every rocket fired at Sderot which receives much more fire and is closer to the Strip would set it off.

Nati Messing, a third-year student at Sapir College, said the campus had turned into a firing range. "We heard the 'Color Red' sirens several times during the day and went into the protected space, and there was one serious boom. But it turns out that a Qassam struck in the parking lot some 50 meters from the building we were in." Messing added that students from the first-aid unit rushed to the scene of the strike and administered first aid to the victim, "but then we heard that it was too late."