Beersheba says no decision yet on reopening schools as tense night sets in
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Beersheba says no decision yet on reopening schools as tense night sets in

Many residents of south prepare to sleep in bomb shelters overnight in wake of Gaza flareup that saw rocket land direct hit on home

Israelis look at a house in Beersheba that was hit by a rocket fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on October 17, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Israelis look at a house in Beersheba that was hit by a rocket fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on October 17, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Beersheba Municipality said that it had still not decided whether schools there would remain closed on Thursday for a second straight day due to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip that struck a home in the southern city early Wednesday morning.

It said a decision, to be made based on developing events, was expected by Thursday morning.

The Wednesday evening announcement from the municipality came as residents of southern Israel braced for a tense night following Wednesday’s violence, with many planning to sleep in bomb-proof rooms despite the tentative calm that appeared to have taken hold.

“I think this night we’ll spend sleeping in the protected room. Despite the quiet today, it isn’t nice to admit there is no other choice,” Yifat Ben Shoshan, a resident of the Gaza area, told the Walla news site.

Damage to the house that was hit by a missile fired from Gaza Strip, is seen in the city of Beersheba, southern Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

She called on the military to use “any solution” to return to the status quo that prevailed in the south prior to the start of border clashes in March that have seen a number of flareups between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, as well as the near daily launching of airborne incendiary objects at Israeli forests and farmland.

“This is what our daily routine looks like,” Kibbutz Dorot resident Orli Kabuly told Ynet. “Explosions with explanations that aren’t convincing, fields and forests going up in flames, plumes of smoke in the background from [burning] tires and fires, children and adults with post trauma and work as usual.”

As residents of the south prepared for the possibility of further violence overnight, the high-level security cabinet continued to meet into the early hours Thursday to discuss the security situation in Gaza.

Earlier Wednesday, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan said that the Iron Dome anti-rocket system would soon be deployed to the Beersheba area.

“An Iron Dome battery will be set up in the Beersheba area in the coming days, perhaps even tonight,” Ben Dahan said in the Knesset in response to a question about the IDF Home Front Command’s preparedness for war in the south.

The Israel Defense Forces would not confirm Wednesday night whether the battery had yet been deployed. The placement of the anti-rocket system near the city might signal Israel expects hostilities with Gaza to continue.

An Iron Dome anti-missile battery is seen near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on December 27, 2014. (Flash90)

Ben Dahan’s statement came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top defense officials at the military’s Gaza Division headquarters for a security assessment following the flareup, warning that Israel would “act forcefully” in response to violence from the Palestinian enclave.

Egypt and the UN have reportedly scrambled to try to negotiate a calm between the sides since the rocket attack on Beersheba, which came days after Israeli leaders had already threatened a wider offensive over near-daily border riots and launches of incendiary balloons and kites.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, a mid-range rocket from the Gaza Strip bearing a heavy 20 kilogram (44 pound) warhead struck a house in Beersheba, causing significant damage to the structure.

A man watches a house that was hit by a missile fired from Gaza Strip, in the city of Beersheba, southern Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

The residents were spared injury as they had rushed into their bomb shelter after the incoming rocket siren sounded in the city.

It was only the second rocket fired at Beersheba since the 2014 Gaza war. The previous rocket, which struck a field north of Beersheba on August 9, came as Palestinians fired dozens of projectiles at Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

In response, the Israel Defense Forces carried out strikes on some 20 targets in the Strip connected to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group and other organizations in the coastal enclave.

A second rocket fired from Gaza Wednesday morning crashed into the sea off the coast of greater Tel Aviv area, known in Israel as Gush Dan. The military would only confirm that it struck “off the coast of a large city.”

There was no word if an Iron Dome was or would be deployed in the Tel Aviv region.

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