Photo: Amir Cohen
Peretz in Sderot. Close to home
Photo: Amir Cohen
Qassam hits Sderot classroom
Photo: Amir Cohen

Peretz: No chance to fortify schools by September

Despite announcing plan Sunday to armor Gaza perimeter schools immediately, by Monday defense minister cynical about likelihood of completing security construction by next school year; IDF officials: Fortifying schools will take long time – plan needs wide budget, exact planning

On Sunday, just hours after a Qassam rocket hit a Sderot classroom, Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced a plan to fortify school structures against rockets in Gaza perimeter communities, to be implemented immediately.


“A child’s life comes before everything,” the minister said unequivocally Sunday, but by Monday morning, Peretz was already pessimistic about the possibility of completing the construction project in a timely manner. During a meeting with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal and additional regional council heads, Peretz admitted that “the likelihood that we’ll finish all protection work by September – the beginning of next school year – seems to be a complete fantasy.”

Touring classroom hit by rocket (Photo: Amir Cohen)


Peretz, a Sderot resident, toured the city alongside Education Minister Yuli Tamir. Following their meeting with the council heads, the two continued on to the Netiv Hayeshivati school, where the Qassam fell Sunday, to see from up close the site of the attack, where miraculously no one was wounded as the students were coming back from morning prayer and were standing just outside the classroom when the rocket hit.


On Monday students are supposed to take their matriculation exams in English. After the attack Sunday, the education minister instructed teachers to sit the exam in an armored building so students wouldn’t feel threatened during the testing. Students yesterday expressed fear and anxiety about rockets hitting the school’s unprotected buildings.


Peretz's Sderot tour tense


In contrast to Peretz’s previous visits to the town, this time the atmosphere was tense and charged, especially because the defense minister is a Sderot resident. Peretz, who reminded everyone he met that he grew up in the town, said that Sderot was the front line of Israel. “I am the defense minister, but as a Sderot resident, along with the mayor, I won’t let anyone put us in a panic,” he said.


The minister expressed his support for Sderot townspeople, saying that their strength is crucial backup for the IDF and security forces – any other response would serve Israel’s enemies.


Many residents, parents and teachers, appealed to Peretz to solve the situation and “give them their lives back.” Amit Orenbuch, a teacher at the school hit by a rocket Sunday, apparently delayed students at morning prayer for two additional minutes – which saved them from being in the classroom when the Qassam fell through the roof. Orenbuch told Peretz: “We had a great miracle here and this was due to prayer. This is the message we want to communicate – the two minutes yesterday weren’t by chance. With that, we expect a response. We ask and demand that this won’t happen again.”


Chairman of the school’s parents committee Sophie Ben Shushan asked Peretz, “How can it be that for eight months nothing has been done? My children won’t be abandoned. Everyone here is in trauma. The schools need to be protected.”


Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, however, said that the solution is not in protecting the schools but in pursuing the Qassam launching cells. Following the meeting with Peretz, Moyal said Monday, “The public is sick of this situation and the solution isn’t in protection. We need to fight the main factor which is terrorism, and that is on the other side. The government isn’t dealing with it properly, they shouldn’t have pity. We don’t want a concrete dome over all of Sderot.”


Budget key to shield plan


Following Peretz’s declaration Sunday, IDF officials explained that if the decision is made to fortify area schools, additional budget money will be needed. Likewise, it will need to be decided to what degree the structures will be armored.


Officials stated that even if such a project is approved, it will take a long time for money to be allotted for it and for work to start.


“It is clear that every Qassam hit on an educational institution causes fear and raises the matter on the community’s agenda. In practice, protecting schools needs an extensive budget and exact planning. If that is really what the defense minister decided, we’ll carry it out as well as possible.”


In the Home Front Command, officials explained that there were directions not to utilize the top floors of the schools in the Gaza perimeter area. “The order was given by the mayors, but the schools do not obey it,” sources said.


פרסום ראשון: 05.22.06, 09:43
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