Photo: Tsafrir Avayov
Qassam and another Qassam and another Qassam
Photo: Tsafrir Avayov
Photo: Amir Cohen
Peretz. Rules out operation against Hamas
Photo: Amir Cohen
Photo: Gadi Kabalo
Yonatan Engel evacuated to hospital Sunday
Photo: Gadi Kabalo
Qassam barrage hits Sderot
Once again, town residents wake up to sound of Red Dawn alert system as four rockets land in open areas, following eight rockets launched overnight; no injuries reported. Hospital officials: Man critically injured by Qassam on Sunday out of danger

Palestinians continue to bombard Sderot: Two Qassam rockets were launched at the southern town Monday morning at around 7 a.m., landing in open areas. Half an hour later, Sderot's Red Dawn alert system was activated once again after two additional rockets were fired at the town.


The rockets landed in the town's southern entrance, near residents' houses. There were no reports of injuries or damage.


Twelve rockets were fired at Sderot and the western Negev since Sunday night. There were no injuries.


Sderot's schools and kindergartens were still on strike Monday following the security situation in the city. However, Mayor Eli Moyal announced that the education institutions would be open for students who wish to arrive there anyway, but added the children would not be allowed to spend their breaks in the school yard.

Minister Tamir closely inspects Negev school (Photo: Amir Cohen)


Education Minister Yuli Tamir toured the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council Monday morning. She visited the elementary and high schools which are still on strike, and the students' parents stressed that she was touring empty schools.


Simultaneously, dozens of Kibbutz Sha'ar Hanegev residents demonstrated in protest of the fact that the regional council's kibbutzim are being ignored unlike Sderot residents.


Meanwhile, Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson and Income Tax Commissioner Jacky Matza have agreed to freeze collection of taxes in Negev communities that are within a Qassam firing range for one month.


The decision was made in consideration of people in the communities living through difficult times. The decision will be reexamined after one month.


On Sunday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz instructed the Israel Defense Forces and security officials to complete necessary preparations to target all elements involved in Qassam attacks – from the decision-makers to the launchers in the field. With that, Peretz rejected the IDF’s suggestion to intensify the offensive against Hamas immediately.


During a security consultation Sunday evening with the IDF chief of staff and the defense establishment's top brass, Peretz said: “Over the last few days there has been a severe escalation in violence in the Strip, in which Hamas is taking a central and active part in firing rockets towards Gaza perimeter communities. As a result, an Israeli citizen was severely wounded and a number of civilians were lightly wounded. An elementary school took a direct hit, and a rocket landed next to a kindergarten.”

Sderot residents enter fortified rooms during Qassam fall (Photo: AP)


And despite Peretz's instruction, the protest against him continues. Three Sderot residents, who launched a hunger strike Sunday, arrived at the defense minister's home Monday morning in order to continue their strike opposite the house.


Demonstrators in Sderot have released a letter to the Israeli public, which reads, among other things: "We are on a hunger strike not for reasons of budget, but to protect our civil rights. We call on you to join us. Today it is us, and we are hoping that it won't be you tomorrow. Our struggle is for life's sanctity."


Alon Davidi, one of the strikers, said that he and his friends have gained the support of the town's residents and guests from outside.

Hunger strikers outside Peretz's house (Photo: Amir Cohen)


The police reminded the protestors of the danger in sitting in a tent exposed to the rocket threat.


"We are aware of the danger and therefore have decided to fortify the tent with sandbags, just like they did in 1948 when the State was established," Davidi said.


"In addition, we have asked (defense minister's wife) Ahlama Peretz to join the strike because her goals and our goals are the same. We hope the president will become involved in what is happening here and maybe he and other Knesset members will come visit us," he added.


'Peretz did not provide us with answers'


Davidi continued: "This step is being taken for the sake of Sderot residents. This is a humanitarian step, not a political one, and therefore we expect solidarity from all across the social spectrum, but the most important thing for us that the solidarity comes from the outside – mainly from residents of central Israel who should come and protest the Qassam fire with us."


On Sunday, dozens of protestors gathered outside Peretz's house. The defense minister told them that he believes the demonstration is not the way to deal with the Qassam fire and asked them to stop protesting.


Batia Katar, chairman of the town's parents committee, who also took part in the demonstration, said following the meeting with the defense minister: "Peretz did not provide us with answers and just avoided answering questions for a quarter of an hour."


"He repeated the same sentences, saying that we should be patient and that that was our power. The highlight in our eyes was when he said that he would not reveal the steps he plans to take when it is obvious that no operations are going to be implemented," she charged.  


Officials at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon reported that the condition of Sderot resident Yonatan Engel, 61, who was critically injured after being hit by a Qassam on Sunday, continues to be serious. However, the hospital reported that he was out of danger and his condition is stable.


First published: 12.06.06, 08:18
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