Schools in southern Israel reopened on Sunday, following a week of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip that disrupted life for a million Israelis, including 250,000 children.
From Friday evening to late Saturday, no rockets had been fired into Israel — the longest period of calm since hostilities broke out eight days earlier.
City officials in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Gan Yavne and Ofakin announced on Saturday that schools would be returning to a regular schedule.
Islamic Jihad, the extremist group responsible for much of the rocket fire, has threatened to use missiles that can reach the central Tel Aviv area if there is another round of conflict.
A Kassam rocket had exploded in the Eshkol region on Friday evening — the second of the day. There were no reports of injuries or damage from either rocket attack. Overnight Thursday, several rockets were launched at southern Israel, with one Grad fired at Ashdod being shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Continuing rocket fire from Gaza prompted many southern municipalities to keep schools closed Friday. Beersheba mayor Ruvik Danilovich told Israel Radio that “As long as there is shooting, there will be no school.”
Egypt reportedly called on Israel not to escalate the violence and allow Hamas the necessary time to rein in those factions not adhering to the ceasefire.
Israeli security chiefs met on Thursday night and decided to exercise restraint in the hope that the ceasefire, agreed on Tuesday, would yet hold.
The hostilities began on March 9 after the Israeli Air Force carried out a targeted strike against terror leader Zuhair al-Qaissi. The airstrike on a car in Gaza City killed al-Qaissi, the head of Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees, and two of his underlings. It was the highest-profile killing Israel has carried out in many months.
Al-Qaissi was one of those who oversaw the infiltration of terrorists from the Sinai into Israel north of Eilat last August in which eight Israelis were killed, and was planning another major infiltration attack in the coming days, military sources said. Hence, they said, the decision to target him.
Al-Qaissi’s Hamas-linked PRC was also behind the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held captive in Gaza for more than five years and freed in a prisoner swap last year in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians.
High schools in Ashkelon remained closed due to a teachers’ strike.