Routine Slowly Returning to South After Four Days of Rockets

Home Front Command announces return to normal, kids go back to school.

After four days of fighting, Israel and Gaza militants reached a cease-fire agreement yesterday morning. Despite the announcement of the Egyptian-mediated cease-fire, another 12 rockets and mortar shells fell yesterday in areas near Gaza.

No one was hurt and no damage was caused since all the shells fell in open areas. In total, 169 rockets and shells were fired at Israel from Gaza during the past four days.

Ashdod shop - AP - 14.3.12

The Home Front Command announced a return to routine life with no restrictions imposed as of today, but the command reminded people to follow instructions if sirens start and to enter protected spaces, wait 10 minutes and only then leave the reinforced rooms.

Today, 207,000 schoolchildren in communities located between seven and 40 kilometers from Gaza will return to school after being kept home for the past three days. The mayors of Be'er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malakhi, Ofakim and Netivot decided in coordination with the Home Front Command to return to routine operations and to open schools today. A Grad rocket struck a residential area in the town of Netivot. No injuries were reported.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said a decision will be made by the end of the week on compensation for parents who were forced to stay home with their children and were unable to work.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond harshly if Palestinian groups violated the cease-fire. "Our message is clear - quiet brings quiet," Netanyahu told a conference of ministries' director generals in Jerusalem yesterday evening. "Anyone who violates or even tries to violate [the cease-fire] will find himself in our sights," said the prime minister.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the Gaza Division yesterday. "We are at the end of the present round," he said. "The Israel Defense Forces acted to the point and well. We do not know when we will need to act once again, but the IDF will continue to attack terror organizations. Over 200 rockets were fired at southern towns and the Iron Dome [missile interception system] intercepted most of the rockets fired at populated areas. I have come here to say thank you to commanders and soldiers. I think the other side is learning where are red lines are," said the defense minister.

As for the killing of the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhir al-Qaisi, which ignited the recent round of violence, Barak said: "Our decision was correct. The recommendation that came from the IDF was good and the implementation was also good."

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz told new recruits yesterday at the IDF induction center in Tel Hashomer that the IDF had acted to prevent a terror attack in the south. As a result, terror organizations opened fire on Israel and the IDF responded with lethal fire almost without any injury to those not involved in the fighting, he said. "We are not acting for any purpose other than to protect the cease-fire. If they do not fire then there will be no fire from our side," said Ganz.

Ganz said it would take time until all firing on the Negev ended, but that the IDF is watching developments carefully.

Many southern residents said they do not believe the recent escalation has ended yet - or that the cease-fire will last long.