Kassam rockets continue to hit South

In latest attack, rocket lands south of Ashkelon; comes after school damaged by advanced Kassam.

Kassam field cool 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam field cool 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Gaza terrorists resumed their attacks on Israeli civilian areas at around midnight Saturday, firing a Kassam rocket that landed south of Ashkelon. No one was wounded in the latest attack, which came after two advanced Kassams were fired at the city on Saturday morning, one of which tore through an empty school, destroying classrooms, and spraying shrapnel in all directions. Damaged areas in the school included some that had been deemed safe zones by the Home Front Command. Two people living near the school were lightly wounded and eight were treated for shock. The second rocket fired Saturday morning hit an open area in the city, causing no injuries or damage. Four additional rockets were fired during the day at the western Negev, striking open areas and causing no damage. On Saturday evening, another rocket hit the Sha'ar Hanegev region. A police source told The Jerusalem Post that terrorists in Gaza assembled the rockets that struck Ashkelon using an improvised technique to make them more powerful. The two rockets, which were retrieved and analyzed by police sappers, had a 170-mm. diameter, which allowed for a greater amount of explosives to be packed inside. "These are improved Kassams, more powerful than standard Kassams. They have a longer range and pack a bigger punch," the source said. The rockets were not, however, more powerful than the Grad-type rocket. Following the attacks, the Ashkelon Municipality reactivated its emergency command and control center, situated in a bomb shelter adjacent to city hall, where situation analysis meetings were held on Saturday. The center had served as a hub for coordinating emergency responses to the large number of rockets fired at the city during Operation Cast Lead. Ashkelon residents reported hearing an air raid siren at 8:43 a.m., before a powerful blast shook the residential area where the school is located. The municipality decided to keep city schools open on Sunday, despite the concerns of anxious parents. "In light of the situation, we can say with certainty that the school struck by a rocket will not be open tomorrow. We will have to find an alternative solution for students. The remainder of the schools will open on Sunday," Deputy Mayor Shlomo Cohen said. Cohen added that the municipality "shared the concerns of parents in light of the deterioration of security, but we must remember that carrying on in a routine manner bolsters the education system and the whole of the city of Ashkelon." The municipality has been waiting for two weeks for the Defense Ministry to approve rocket reinforcement construction plans drawn up to protect city schools, Cohen said, adding that the school struck in Saturday's attack was on the list of schools waiting for protection. "The Ashkelon Municipality has demanded that the school be equipped with inexpensive basic rocket protection reinforcement. The reinforcement plans have been approved by the municipality and the Home Front Command. They have been sitting on the desks of Defense Ministry officials for two weeks, waiting for approval," Cohen said. On Friday, a Gazan Kassam hit an open area in the Sdot Negev region. No damage was caused. On Thursday, a number of Sderot residents were treated for shock when a rocket struck close to two houses. Police on Saturday said 65 rockets and mortar shells have hit the South since the end of Operation Cast Lead on January 18, leading to four light injuries. JPost.com staff contributed to this report