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Israeli Towns Near Gaza Set to Begin School Year, Despite Recent Rocket Fire

Three Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza toward Sderot at about 9 A.M. on Sunday, setting off the Color Red alarm system.

School will open on Monday as scheduled in Sderot and the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip despite rocket fire on Sunday that damaged factories in the Sapirim industrial zone, which is jointly owned by Sderot and the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.

Three Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza toward Sderot at about 9 A.M. on Sunday, setting off the Color Red alarm system. One of the rockets hit the roof of a factory that had been hit by a rocket two months ago. The second rocket exploded in the courtyard of a nearby factory, and the third was found in a Sderot neighborhood. Mortars were fired at the same time as the rockets.

Rescue squads, military units and police who came to the blast site at the industrial park found one man suffering from shock who refused to be evacuated for medical treatment.

One of the workers in the first factory described the incident: "As soon as we heard the alarm we ran to the protected space and heard a really strong blast. When we came out the factory was full of smoke, and we realized that the rocket had hit the roof. We can't really estimate the damage yet. There was a little panic but that's understandable."

Roni Alkabetz, who worked in the other plant, said, "At about 9:30 A.M. we heard the alarm and ran to the reinforced cubicles, but we didn't manage to get there. Suddenly we heard a huge blast. The rocket fell on a tree. We were lucky no one was hurt.

"The Qassams start every year when school opens," Alkabetz said. "We were very lucky. I hope that now we'll have a little quiet."

GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, who visited the damaged factory, said, "Like the residents, we're familiar with these incidents and we'll know how to handle them in the best possible way."

A security source said that for the chief regional commander to come to the site of a Qassam attack that hadn't caused any casualties was rather unusual.

Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council chairman Alon Schuster, who accompanied Russo to the site, noted, "This incident is only one of many that hurt us. There have been hundreds of incidents like this in the past decade, which is why we are preparing for any possible scenario and reinforcing our school buildings."

The rockets that hit the industrial zone two months ago moderately injured a 50-year-old Netivot resident who suffered shrapnel wounds in his neck.