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Psychologists Dispatched to Sderot Kindergarten


Following the fatal Kassam rocket attack in a Sderot kindergarten Monday morning that claimed two lives, including a 4-year-old, psychologists and Ministry of Education crisis team members were sent to the kindergarten to meet with the friends of the victim.

IAF Missiles Strike Gaza High-Rise, Destroy Metal Foundry After Palestinian Rocket Kills 2 Civilians in Sderot

By Ha'aretz

Three missiles were fired at a 16-story building in Gaza City, while one missile hit a metal foundry in the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. On Monday morning, two people, one of them a young child, were killed and at least nine others were wounded, when four Kassam rockets landed on the southern town of Sderot.

The rocket attack came on the day after Israel Defense Forces Staff Sgt. Roi Nissim was killed and five troops were wounded when militants detonated 150 kg. of explosives placed in a tunnel they had dug underneath an IDF post in the central Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif.

The high-rise targeted by the IAF Monday night houses several media outlets, including the Arab TV satellite station Al Jazeera. White smoke rose from the building and ambulances raced to the scene. The missiles hit a third-floor media center affiliated with the Islamic militant group Hamas. Two people suffered moderate injuries, doctors said.

The army confirmed targeting the building, saying in a statement the office was "a communication center which maintained constant contact with terrorists [and] through which Hamas claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks." The foundry was said to be destroyed in the strike, with no reports of casualties. The IDF said Hamas had used the foundry to manufacture weapons. Earlier Monday, IDF troops destroyed two eight-story building in the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

The decision to destroy the buildings was taken in a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and security chiefs to discuss an Israeli response to the two attacks. Hours later, IDF troops blew up the two empty eight-story buildings, located close to Gush Katif. The two buildings were destroyed after troops found a ventilation shaft between them, which military sources said was apparently connected to the explosives-laden tunnel.

Several IDF tanks also rolled into northern Gaza late Monday and more armored vehicles assembled at the Gaza border, along with dozens of troops - a precursor to what Israeli security officials said could be a prolonged operation in Gaza to prevent rocket fire on Israeli towns bordering the Strip. Nine people were also wounded in the Kassam strike on the southern town of Sderot, the first fatal attack of its kind.

The two fatalities were identified as Mordechai Yosepov, 49, and four-year-old Afik Zahavi, whose mother, Ruthie, was critically wounded in the attack. Both were laid to rest Monday afternoon at the Sderot cemetery.

The wounded were rushed from Sderot to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, where surgeons battled in vain to save the life of the four-year-old boy. "There was a huge boom. I was very frightened and ran away," said 18-year-old Chen Smadja, who was on her way to a nearby high school. "Who is watching over [our children]? Nobody. That's my message to the prime minister," said Yitzhak Ohayon, father of Afik. "We were supposed to go to his end-of-year party in kindergarten tomorrow... and now instead we'll be going to his funeral."

One of the rockets landed close to a kindergarten in the Neveh Eshkol neighborhood and the second hit a nearby coffee shop, killing the two. The rockets landed just a kilometer from Sharon's private ranch. A short time later, a third and rocket landed in an open field. There were no injuries from the third rocket.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the rockets, which were fired from the Gaza Strip. In the wake of the attack, the police bolstered the number of officers in the Negev town. Since the start of the intifada in September 2000, 347 Kassam rockets have been fired at Israeli targets, of which 265 have landed within the Green Line.

Palestinian militants have regularly targeted Sderot. In the vast majority of cases, the crude homemade missiles land in open land, and this is the first time a Kassam has led directly to an Israeli fatality. "So far Sderot had been lucky in the Kassam attacks," Minister Gideon Ezra told Israel Radio, "but that luck ran out today."

David Baker, an official at the Prime Minister's Office, told Ha'aretz that, "the Palestinian missile attack was an especially cruel reminder of the brutal nature of Palestinian terrorism. Once again, terror has struck at innocent Israelis in the heart of an Israeli town."

The United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, condemned the rocket attack. Leader of the opposition, Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres, said at a meeting with President Moshe Katsav on Monday that, "Unjustified terror presents a huge problem for the Palestinians. We have reached a decision to pull out of Gaza, and we must carry it out, not delay it." Peres said that delaying the Gaza pullout due to terrorist attacks would benefit neither the Palestinians nor Israelis.

He also said the Palestinians must think long an hard about their actions in Sderot. "Nothing can justify hurting a child or his grandfather or soldiers who are merely following orders," he said.

Sharon's Economic Incentives to Settlers


Addressing a session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Jewish residents of Gush Katif wishing to leave their homes as part of the withdrawal plan may do so as of Tuesday morning. In response to a question by opposition Knesset Member Haim Ramon (Labor), the Prime Minister said that he would also consider offering compensation to residents wishing to leave Jewish towns in Samaria that are not included in the government's current withdrawal plans.

On the other hand, Sharon said, in answer to a question by Meretz-Yahad's Ran Cohen, anyone who resists eviction and raises a hand against an IDF soldier will have his compensation payments cut. "It will help no one," Sharon declared, "The disengagement plan will be implemented even with all of the protestors, who can continue to protest. Disengagement is an accomplished fact."

Spokespersons for Gush Katif Jewish communities reacted to the Sharon's statements by saying it was "saddening that the Prime Minister ignores the terrorism his plan is causing in Gaza and in Sderot, just as the leaders of the Left, in the Oslo Accords, were deaf to terrorism."

National Religious Party chairman Effi Eitam and Aryeh Eldad (National Union) plan to present a bill to the Knesset next week, which, if passed, would effectively prevent the Israel Defense Forces from participating in the uprooting of Jewish communities.

The Ministerial Committee of Legislative Affairs will discuss the bill, which requires a majority of 80 Knesset members to deploy the IDF against any entity not defined as an "enemy of the state." It states that the duty of the IDF is solely to guard Israel's borders, protect Israel's citizens and to fight the enemies of the Jewish People, but not to involve itself in missions involving confrontation with Israel's civilian population.

Eldad told Arutz-7, "The State of Israel is facing difficult decisions that are connected to the future of Jewish life in Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza). We must not make these difficult times any more difficult by ordering the men and women of the IDF - an army of the people - to uproot their own families from their homes or to carry out actions that could tear a rift between the different sectors of our people."

Eldad and Eitam are suggesting an amendment to the Law of Police, mandating that only policemen carry out functions dealing with non-enemy civilians living in Yesha. "The law seeks to solidify a very simple concept," said Eldad, "that the purpose of the IDF is to deal with enemies of the Jewish State, not to implement political decisions and throw civilians out of their homes."

The bill has been coordinated with members of the Likud, United Torah Judaism, National Union and Shas parties.

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