School Year to Continue in Sderot Despite Qassam Threat

Education Minister Tamir rejects request to end school year early, says cost would outweigh benefits.

The Education Ministry on Sunday rejected the request of Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal to end the school year in the town immediately.

Directors of the southern district at the Education Ministry discussed the matter on Sunday and decided that the damages incurred by ending the school year now would exceed the benefits.

"Pedagogically speaking, it is neither appropriate nor correct to end the school year in Sderot now. There has never been a case where the school year ended a month early," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said.

"There will be no benefit if the pupils sit in an unprotected home, bored and frightened. The teachers continue to give assignments to the pupils, and there are marathon sessions in locations outside the town in preparation for the matriculation exams."

"The public school system has not stopped functioning because of the crisis. We are under no illusions that if Qassams fall near the pupils they will continue their routine without interruption, but we are trying to offer the best possible solutions."

The minister pointed out that the rise in the number of pupils who pass their matriculation exams in Sderot proves that the educational efforts are meeting their targets.

The Education Ministry has also promised to offer activities during the summer holiday in Sderot, Tamir said.

Meanwhile, Sderot pupils still in town yesterday were bused to nearby communities for several hours in order to spend time in places not threatened by Qassam rockets.

Qassam damages Sderot home; IAF strikes Hamas post in Gaza

A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip landed very close to a home in the western Negev city of Sderot Sunday evening, causing damage to the structure.

A second rocket was fired at the western Negev around nine p.m., in the third salvo since Sunday morning. One person complained of ringing in his ears and was taken to hospital for evaluation. Another woman was treated for shock.

The Qassam strike came moments after the Israel Air Force fired missiles at a Hamas military position along the coast of southern Gaza in widening efforts to curb the Qassam rocket fire.

The Palestinians reported no casualties.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces reinforced its presence along the Gaza border Sunday evening, in accordance with a decision that was made over the weekend, but it was decided that the troops would not advance into the Strip at this time.

Earlier Sunday, a Hod Hasharon resident was killed when a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit the car in which he was driving in the western Negev town of Sderot.

The man, 35-year-old Oshri Oz, was wounded in his neck by shrapnel, and taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon in critical condition. He succumbed to his wounds a short while later.

Oz was the second person to be killed by a Qassam rocket in less than a week.

Two Qassam rockets hit Israel earlier Sunday, one landing in Sderot causing property damage and the other near a kibbutz in the western Negev. Neither rocket caused casualties. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The rocket attacks followed IAF strikes against Hamas security positions in the northern and southern Gaza Strip late Saturday night.

The IAF hit one target near the northern Gaza Strip town of Jebaliya, and post near the southern town of town of Rafah. Palestinians reported that three people were wounded in the attacks.

In the wake of the IAF air strikes, which left seven Hamas militants dead over the weekend, Hamas has hardened its stance saying it would not consider a truce and calling for more attacks on Israel.

Qassam rockets continued to fall on Sderot over the weekend, with 22 landing in the town or nearby. Two homes were hit by the rockets and two people were lightly injured.

Meanwhile, air strikes against Hamas targets during the weekend killed seven militants and injured at least 23 other Palestinians.

Five members of the Executive Force, a militia established by Hamas in the Gaza Strip when it came to power after winning elections over a year ago, were killed Saturday morning when their headquarters was bombed in Gaza City.

Two other Hamas militants, members of the group's military wing, were killed when their vehicle was destroyed by air force missiles Friday in the Saajiye district. IDF sources said the two were on their way to launch Qassam rockets against Israel.

During the weekend the air force attacked nine targets throughout the Gaza Strip. Most were Executive Force targets, but the Sha'ati refugee camp in western Gaza was also hit.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested Palestinian cabinet minister Wasfi Kabha, confiscating his computer and many documents. The arrest came two days after a sweep in which more than 30 Hamas politicians, legislators and local council members were arrested, including the education minister.