In shadow of rocket fire, summer camps to stay open in south

In shadow of rocket fire, summer camps to stay open in south

Parents group furious with decision, but IDF Homefront Command urges residents to continue their daily routine

Iron Dome missile defense batteries near the southern town of Ashdod. File photo (Photo credit: Flash90)
Iron Dome missile defense batteries near the southern town of Ashdod. File photo (Photo credit: Flash90)

Despite continuing rocket fire from Gaza that showed no signs of abating over the weekend, local councils and mayors near the Gaza border have decided to keep summer camps, schools and other children’s activities operating normally.

The IDF Homefront Command recommended early Sunday that residents continue with their daily routines and not let the continuing conflict disrupt their lives.

Ashdod mayor Yechiel Lasri ordered Haredi classrooms to remain closed even as other institutions were allowed to open normally, since most classrooms in the city’s Haredi education system do not have access to bomb shelters.

The Ashdod municipality had said on Saturday night that no classes or other planned activities would be allowed to open, except inside bomb shelters.

In nearby Ashkelon, the local school system’s parents’ organization expressed anger at the decision to open schools and summer camps. It had previously called on the city to close all children’s activities in public spaces.

The organization said in a statement to Army Radio that not all buildings that would house children on Sunday had bomb shelters.

The growing concern over the safety of residents in Israeli towns on the Gaza periphery is likely to be the main topic of discussion at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The IDF has deployed multiple Iron Dome anti-rocket defense batteries to southern towns in recent weeks as tensions rose between Israel and Hamas over the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank on June 12.

Several rockets were shot down in recent days, including over Beersheba, the largest city in the Negev, on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Hamas upped its rhetoric on Saturday evening, declaring that its rockets and missiles could reach “all” of Israel’s cities. The statement came several hours after Gaza rockets targeted the city of Beersheba for the first time since 2012 and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered a tougher response to the continued attacks.

Netanyahu faces pressure from other members of his cabinet, who have called in recent days for a tougher response to the rocket fire.

“Restraint in the face of attacks on women and children is not strength,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, one of Netanyahu’s top coalition partners, chastised on Saturday evening. “Restraint in the face of the execution of three children is weakness,” said Bennett, who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, referencing the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank on June 12, carried out by a Hamas cell in Hebron.

“The residents of the south are not second grade citizens, and we must respond to the rocket fire on Beersheba just as we would respond to an attack on Tel Aviv, and not wait for an attack on Tel Aviv,” he said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has also condemned Netanyahu’s apparent inclination to try to revive a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza, rather than launch a major military offensive.

Netanyahu is also grappling with riots in Jerusalem and Arab cities in central and northern Israel, which have intensified since a 16-year-old East Jerusalemite, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, was found murdered on Wednesday morning, in what Israeli authorities fear was a revenge attack by Jewish terrorists for the murders of the three Israeli teens, whose bodies were found on Monday.

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