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Israeli Town Begins School Year Under Threat of Palestinian Rockets


Two Palestinian rockets were fired at Israel on the first day of the school year, Sunday. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the return to classes has residents of one town in southern Israel feeling especially vulnerable.

No one in the Israeli border town of Sderot was surprised when rockets were fired from nearby Gaza on the first day of school. The army says about 3,000 Palestinian rockets have been fired at Sderot and surrounding areas since Israel pulled out of Gaza two years ago.

Michelle Sendell is one of many nervous parents.

"It is a very scary feeling," said Michelle Sendell. "Hundreds of families have left Sderot already. People are afraid."

She accuses the government of selling out the residents of Sderot by failing to take decisive military action in Gaza.

"Why are we just letting this happen under our eyes? And it is in my backyard," she said. "It s a half a mile away from my house. How could they let this happen? Where is the government, where is the army?"

Residents also say the government failed to deliver on a promise to fortify all the classrooms in Sderot against rockets.

But Public Security Minister Avi Dichter says enough classrooms have been fortified to enable the opening of the school year.

Dichter told Israel Radio that stopping the Palestinian rocket attacks is a priority.

But after pulling out of Gaza, Israel is reluctant to send the army back in. In addition to the risk of high casualties among soldiers and civilians, Israel fears a major offensive would hinder plans by the United States to convene an international peace conference in November.

In the meantime the rockets keep falling, and parents in Sderot say sending their children to school is like Russian roulette.

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