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‘Improved’ Kassam slams into Ashkelon school

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Kassam rocket slammed into an Ashkelon school, destroying classrooms and injuring two.

The rocket, improved to travel farther and packed with more explosives, was one of seven Kassam rockets to hit southern Israel on Saturday. Along with destroying classrooms, it damaged areas in the school that had been labeled safe zones, according to reports. Two people living near the school were injured and eight were treated for shock.

Ashkelon schools opened Sunday, despite parents’ concern.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, addressing the attacks at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, said the attacks "will be answered with a painful, harsh, strong and uncompromising response from the security forces."

He also said, "The terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas, are trying to recover from the harsh military blow they took during Operation Cast Lead and are doing so in the only way they know how — terrorism."  

Olmert went on to say that Israel "has a wide range of options that will be utilized in order to bring complete quiet to the South."

Police experts told Israeli media that  the "improved" rockets that struck Ashkelon are rarely fired at Israel. They said the circumference of the rocklet was wider to allow for more explosives, which were able to penetrate a building that was reinforced against Kassam rockets. Two tractors were required to pull the rocket from the ground.

Meanwhile, at least three Kassams struck southern Israel on Sunday, one sparking a fire in a Sderot home and causing damage.

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