Sunday, June 11

Sderot: schools closed after Kassam strikes school yard, injures Israeli

Sderot's beleagured Mayor Eli Moyal acceded to fearful parents demands, after Sunday morning's Kassam volley that wounded several Israelis, and told administrators to keep the schoolhouse doors shut.

Moyal, according to Ynet, said the move was not in protest of the IDF inability to thwart the near-daily rocket barrage:

"Four rockets landed in the Sderot area, one rocket falling inside an elementary school and another landing nearby. As a result, the building suffered damage. One man was lightly injured and was evacuated to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. Two other people were treated for shock on the scene of the attack."

And this, just in from the
IDF Spokesman's office:

"The Chief of Staff has instructed Maj. Gen. Meir Kalifi, deputy commander of the IDF ground forces branch, to head a special inquiry committee into yesterday's incident in which seven innocent Palestinian civilians were killed on the beach in the Gaza Strip.

"Initial investigation indicated that Israeli naval fire did not cause this incident. The possibility of land-based artillery fire is being examined.

"The IDF deeply regrets any harm caused to innocent civilians and has offered any medical assistance needed including hospitalization in Israel.

"The following is a summary of a briefing given on Friday, June 9, by the GOC Southern Command, Maj. General Yoav Gallant:

"I cannot say what caused this incident. We are looking into the different possibilities. Both naval and ground based means were used today. We have fired thousands of shells in the past and this has never happened before. We are investigating, but it seems that it was not caused by either air or naval fire. There may have been an accident which caused an artillery shell to fall off course, or an old unexploded shell which went off, or perhaps an explosive device which was tinkered with. We fired towards open areas and took the necessary distance precautions. We fired towards the ruins of Dugit and westward of them - an area which is routinely used for rocket launching. The Palestinian population was warned to keep clear of this area. If as a result of our activity innocent Palestinians were hurt, I am very sorry for it. We do not intend to harm civilians, and we have offered any assistance that we can.

"There was no firing towards a school.

"We have halted our artillery fire in order to check ourselves. As for aerial attacks, they will continue against anyone aiming to attack us.

"Rockets continued to be launched at Israel, and despite this regrettable event we will continue to do all that it takes to defend the citizens of Israel. The IDF today attacked two terror cells - one immediately after a rocket launching, the second as it was on its way for such a launching. The second was a Hamas terror cell which in the past days has launched a number of Qassam rocket that hit Sderot. Our activity is aimed to protect the citizens of Israel from harm. This activity will continue.

"If terror organizations continue to fire at our civilian population, we will have to respond severely. We are under attack, and will use any means necessary while taking the utmost precautions. Sadly, accidents do happen. We are investigating the grave incident on the Gaza beach, and if it was in fact caused by a mishap, we will take appropriate action. We expect to know more in the coming 24 hours."

This is the pallid update the IDF Spokesman's Office emailed and faxed reporters early Sunday morning, when, it seems to me, having worked extensively with the IDF spoks, they should be a heck of a lot more proactive, already be on-camera, radio and internet, getting ahead of the day's news cycle, and not dribbling out their response. Hope springs eternal...

Pal terrorists free kidnapped American student (updated)


Members of an armed Fatah militia which claimed to have kidnapped an Israeli Saturday transferred the individual in question, a U.S. citizen, to the custody of the Palestinian Authority before dawn Sunday.

The PA security forces subsequently handed the American over to the Israel Defense Forces. Defense officials believe once the militants discovered the person was indeed an American citizen, they took steps to end the matter quickly.

"Apparently, the kidnappers did not want to end up like Zarqawi," a defense official said.

Carl at Israel Matsav has a good wrap.

Meanwhile, 0730 Sunday morning here in Jerusalem's southern Gilo neighborhood, and, as I type these words, the familiar clatter of the police helicopter rattles overhead. The helo's pilot and swiveling camera slung in the pod underneath scan nearby Beit Jala and other villages searching for Palestinians trying to enter Jerusalem from the wadi (dry ravine) separating the two communities.

In parallel, police and civil guard volunteers patrol the bus stops along the periphery of the bluff, as another line of defense, along with the “security envelope” being constructed nearby to thwart suicide bombers from also gaining entry. I posted a few of my pics and a report of that project here. But hundreds of Palestinian day laborers, women and youths do so daily, anyway, easily bypassing the existing roadblocks.

Outside my apartment, a police car-mounted loudspeaker calls to residents to come and identify a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot.

And how is your Sunday morning?

But with an all-time record of 97 terror alerts charging the atmosphere, and the possibility that an IDF-fired artillery shell, and not a errantly “aimed” Kassam missile killed seven Palestinians on a Gaza beach Friday morning, security forces ratcheted up their stance and are setting up roadblocks along the entry points between Palestinian and Israeli areas, in and around cities and highways trying to foil terrorists.

A police spokesman says just now on Army radio that they have beefed up their No. 100 emergency hotline, allowing more Israelis to call in parallel to provide alerts.

Elsewhere, Palestinians in northern Gaza loosed close to 30 Kassams at Israel in the last 30 hours, with my beeper reporting just now of one Israeli sustaining moderate wounds from a volley aimed at nearby Sderot, just to the east, while others slammed down in a factory in southern Ashkelon, reportedly causing some damage but no injuries.

Educators in the hard-hit development town are threatening to close down schools, if the government and IDF do not provide an answer to the rockets.

Looks to be a hot day ahead...

Make sure to stop back later today; I'll post pictures from here, and from in town covering the security situation.

PM Olmert's daughter, protesters: 'intifada shall prevail'

At Ynetnews: PM's daughter protests Gaza killings

"Dana Olmert takes part in left-wing demonstration outside army chief's house; protesters call [IDF CoS Dan] Halutz 'murderer,' declare 'intifada shall prevail.' Meanwhile, human rights groups send letter to PM, defense minister, calling on them to stop war crimes in territories"

Out of the mouth's of babes, huh, Ehud?


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