Beinisch to state: Improve school protection

On a day that three more Kassam rockets were fired at the western Negev, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Thursday rejected the state's proposed solution for protecting Sderot school children older than Grade 3 attacks by providing safe areas outside the classroom that take 15 seconds to access. "Anything works on paper," said Beinisch. "[But] you are talking about getting 30 children out of their classrooms to a safe area within 15 seconds with all the panic and pushing, and I suggest that you rethink the matter." At the end of the hearing, the court gave the state 45 days to present an updated response to the petitions submitted by the Sderot Parents' Association, the Campaign to Restore Security to Sderot, and the Movement for Quality Education in Israel and others. The state decided at the beginning of the year to reinforce the Grade 1 and 2 classrooms in Sderot's nine primary schools. According to the plan, the children in the older grades were to rush from their classrooms to "protected areas" in sections of the hallways whose ceilings had been reinforced to withstand rocket hits. They had 15 seconds to do so, the time that elapsed between the warning siren and the hit. During the hearing, the state announced it had decided to reinforce the Grade 3 classrooms, too, so that the children would not have to run out to the "protected areas." Justice Salim Joubrin asked the state what was the difference between a child in Grade 3 and a child in Grade 4. "One child is nine, the other 10," said Joubrin. "What's the difference?" The state's representative, Attorney Ra'anan Gilad, replied, "[The plan] works. It's a professional matter." Beinisch retorted sarcastically, "Yes, yes, with all due respect for the profession." Batya Katar, the head of the Parents' Association in Sderot told The Jerusalem Post afterwards that the petitioners are demanding that the Defense Ministry reinforce all the classrooms and auxiliary rooms in the city's nine primary schools and three high schools. She also charged that some of the kindergartens were still not reinforced. Islamic Jihad said they used an upgraded launcher to fire their rockets at Israel on Thursday. The new launcher, developed by Islamic Jihad, can fire up to six rockets at a time, the group said. Previous launchers had been able to only fire single missiles. Islamic Jihad said it used the new launcher to send 10 of its homemade rockets toward the Sufa cargo crossing on the Israel-Gaza border. However, an IDF spokesman said only two hit the area, causing no injuries or damages. The new launcher is part of an attempt by Islamic Jihad to increase its ability to strike Israel. In November the group developed a longer-range homemade rocket with double the reach of its predecessor, or 18- to 20 kilometers. In a separate incident, Islamic Jihad launched a single rocket at Ashkelon. The Israeli military confirmed the rocket hit in an industrial area south of the city, causing no injuries.