Monday, September 03, 2007

Babies evacuated as Kassam strikes Sderot day care center courtyard

The Sderot Parents Association decided not to take children to schools and daycare centers beginning Tuesday ... until the government would change its policy regarding ongoing Kassam rocket salvos on the western Negev town, The Jerusalem Post learned Monday.

On Monday, Soldiers scrambled to evacuate babies from a day care center in Sderot after a projectile fired by Palestinian terrorists thudded into the courtyard.

None of the 15 babies at the center were wounded. However, frantic parents across the city - already furious over the government's failure to protect them and their children from the near-daily rocket fire - pulled their children out of schools on the second day of the academic year.

In total, seven Kassam rockets landed in and around the western Negev town Monday morning as Sderot children started their second day of the new school year. The Islamic Jihad said they had fired nine Kuds-3 rockets, saying on their internet site that the attack was "a present for the start of the new school year."

Twelve people, including some of the babies, suffered shock when one of the rockets landed near the creche and a building was damaged.

Another rocket landed near a road, while the other five landed in an open field, one causing a fire.

Despite the fact that no casualties were reported from the rocket barrage, Sderot parents were not taking any chances. Batya Katar, head of the Sderot Parents Association, said parents were pulling all 2,500 of the town's students out of school.

"Buses are already on the way to pick up students who haven't been taken home already," Katar told AP by telephone, the voices of panicked parents audible in the background. The government promised to move students out of the city if there was an escalation in Palestinian rocket fire, she said.

"This is an escalation, but there is no sign of any solution," Katar said.

At one Sderot school, Nahum Bitton arrived to take his children home.

"Of course I'll take them out. Should I leave them in the hands of Hamas?" Bitton told Associated Press Television News. The Islamic militants of Hamas have ruled the Gaza strip since June.

Wary parents in Sderot threatened not to send their children to school on the first day of the year on Sunday, but they lifted the strike threat after being promised the schools were properly protected and that shelters had been upgraded.

Sderot, a working-class town of 22,000, has been battered by thousands of Kassams launched in recent years from Gaza. The rockets rarely cause serious injuries or damage, but they have killed 12 people in the past seven years, and because of their frequency, wreak panic in the city.

To calm jittery residents ahead of the school year, the military dispatched more than 200 soldiers to accompany students back to school in Sderot and instruct them on emergency procedures.

On Sunday, the IDF made a concerted effort to prevent the firing of rockets into Sderot on the first day of school. Attack helicopters hovered over Gaza throughout the day and the IDF struck at a number of launchers in northern Gaza.

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal sharply criticized the government Monday in its handling of the persistent firing of Kassam rockets on his town.

"No government official was asking about the events happening in Sderot this morning, they're just not interested," Army Radio quoted Moyal as saying.

Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), Chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said "there would be escaping the need to send the IDF deep into the Gaza Strip."

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