Kassam rocket hits empty school classroom; none wounded.
By JOSHUA BRANNON, TALYA HALKIN
The principal of a Sderot school declared it a miracle that no students were hurt when a Kassam rocket punched through the roof of their classroom on Sunday morning. The high school students were attending a morning prayer service in a nearby synagogue at the time.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, which caused heavy damage to the classroom and nearby restrooms but no casualties. Parents rushed to the Netiv Yeshivati School to take their shocked children home following news of the attack.
School principal Eli Edri said students habitually assemble for morning prayers from 7:45 to 8:30, and remain in the same room for a talk with one of the educators.
"Luckily - we consider it to be a miracle - there were some delays today, and the students didn't leave for their classrooms on schedule," Edri told The Jerusalem Post.
The classrooms, he said, were always kept locked until the arrival of the homeroom teachers. Several students, however, had arrived early at the door in hope of spending some time preparing for Monday's English matriculation exam.
"They were standing outside the door, and around 8:35 a.m. we heard the Red Dawn alert that precedes the falling of a Kassam rocket. Ten seconds later - at the very most - we heard a loud explosion," he said. "When we opened the door, we realized the extent of the damage."
The rocket, Edri said, had penetrated through the roof and through a wall separating the classroom from an adjacent restroom.
"It was very frightening, but we are used to these kinds of emergency situations here in Sderot," he said. "We immediately called in the social and psychological services. Terrified parents arrived at the school, and we had to attend to them as well."
Edri said he was contacted by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, among other officials. On Monday morning, Tamir is scheduled to visit the school together with Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
A total of five rockets were fired toward Israel from the northern Gaza Strip Sunday morning. One rocket exploded near the Gevim junction in Sderot. Medics treated two women at the scene for shock. One rocket fell in Palestinian territory.
The IDF responded with artillery barrages that pounded Kassam launch sites with more than 200 shells, the army and witnesses said. Palestinian medics said that one Palestinian was moderately wounded in the shelling. The IDF, however, said troops were not firing at the time the man was hit.
In response to the rocket attack, Peretz ordered senior Defense Ministry officials to prepare a plan for the immediate protection of schools in Sderot, Israel Radio reported.
In other developments, Peretz ordered an investigation into civilian casualties in Saturday's IAF strike in Gaza City in which Muhammad Dadouh, a senior Islamic Jihad operative, was killed.
Palestinian witnesses said that IAF planes fired missiles at Dadouh's jeep and at taxi following close behind on a street crowded with traffic. Three people inside the taxi - a woman, her five-year-old son and the boy's grandmother - were killed, along with seven other bystanders, according to Palestinian sources.
OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Elyezer Shkedy said of Peretz's request that "it is not strange to investigate the operation, since it is the IAF's policy to investigate every air strike, whether civilians are injured or not."
The IAF chief expressed regret for the loss of innocent civilians in the strike, but was pleased that the IDF was able to "finally catch up" with Dadouh, who had developed and launched missiles at Israel, including the GRAD-type Katyusha.
Shkedy said that, according to visual surveillance, two missiles could be seen entering Dadouh's jeep and exploding inside the vehicle. "We need to check the facts, to see if the bystanders were killed as a result of the missile fire or for other reasons," he said, suggesting that there may have been explosives inside the jeep.
In another instance of civilian casualties, Palestinian medics said a woman was killed during an IDF pre-dawn raid in Nablus Sunday. Aksa Martyrs Brigades operatives accused IDF troops of firing at the woman as she looked out of the window of her home in the Balata refugee camp.
The IDF said soldiers were fired at during an arrest operation but did not return fire. The soldiers later withdrew without making arrests, the IDF reported.
Elsewhere in the West Bank Sunday, soldiers arrested six fugitives, including a Hamas member in Hebron, the IDF reported.
On the Gaza border, security forces shot a Palestinian in the lower body Sunday afternoon near the security fence in the area of Kibbutz Nir Am.
Soldiers fired warning shots into the air when a group of 16 Palestinians approached the fence. When some of the Palestinians continued to approach, the soldiers fired at their legs.
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