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Israeli School Year to Begin Under Palestinian Rocket Threat


Israeli border communities are facing the new school year under the threat of Palestinian rockets. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, residents are accusing the Israeli government of failing to protect them.

Parents in the Israeli border town of Sderot say five out of nine schools have not been fortified, even though Palestinian rockets fired from the nearby Gaza Strip land there nearly every day. Furious parents say they plan to strike and keep their children home when the school year begins in 10 days.

Alon Schuster, who heads the Gates of the Negev Regional Council in southern Israel, told Israel Radio that the government has not kept its promises to fortify the schools in Sderot and collective farms known as kibbutzim and moshavim.

"And we will fight together, the people of Sderot and the kibbutzim and moshavim, in order to get the basic protection that each citizen of Israel deserves," said Schuster.

While some fortifications have been built in Sderot, residents say kibbutz schools have been totally neglected.

"We have two schools with about 800 students as well and we don't have any sheltering at all," says Uri Na'amati, who heads the Eshkol Regional Council..

Since Israel pulled all soldiers and settlers out of Gaza two years ago, the army says Palestinian militants have fired some 3,000 homemade Kassam rockets across the border. Angry residents have demanded harsh retaliation, but they have not been encouraged by the government's response.

"I think everyone understands that there's not a magical military answer to the Kassam question," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. "I mean if it was an easy issue to solve militarily we would have done it already."

As a result, many frustrated parents are sending their children to schools outside of the range of Palestinian rockets.

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