Students return to class as rockets fall


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rockets from Gaza continued to strike at southern Israel as students began returning to class on the 16th day of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

As students studying for their matriculation exams returned to school in Beersheba Sunday morning, a long-range Grad rocket hit a car, wounding two. A Grad missile also scored a direct hit on a kindergarten in Ashdod. About 20 rockets hit Israel by Sunday night. 

The Home Front Command has given southern communities the go ahead to reopen schools this week, though classes will be held in bomb shelters or in other reinforced structures.

Israeli Ground forces clashed with gunmen shooting and hitting more than 40 on Sunday. In several cases, ground forces directed the Air Force in targeting armed operatives who were firing at them. Meanwhile, paratrooper forces uncovered weapons, camouflage uniforms and communications equipment during searches, according to the IDF spokesman. In addition, armored forces hit various weapons storage facilities, some of them located in the homes of terror operatives.

The Air Force also hit more than 20 smuggling tunnels on the Rafah border. Two Egyptian children and two Egyptian police officers were wounded by Israeli shrapnel near the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, according to security sources, Reuters reported.

During a briefing Sunday, the Air Force asserted that Hamas tried to shoot down an IAF plane using an anti-aircraft missile. 

Israel held its daily "humanitarian pause" in the fighting for three hours in the afternoon. Over the weekend a total of 132 trucks with 3339 tons of humanitarian goods were transferred. These goods included basic food commodities, medical supplies, and electrical supplies for the Palestinian Energy Authority, a donation of approximately 1,000 blood units from Jordan and a total of 42 truck loads for United Nations bodies.

At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the progress of the Gaza operation.

"This is the time to translate our accomplishments into attaining our goals.  Israel is nearing the goals that it set for itself; however, further patience, determination and effort are necessary in order to achieve those goals in a way that will change the security reality in the south, so that our citizens will be able to feel long-term security and stability," he said.  "We must not, at the last minute, lose what has been achieved in an unprecedented national effort that restored the spirit of unity to the nation.  The Israeli public, especially the residents of the south, have the requisite patience and willingness – so does the Government!"

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