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Israeli children go back to school after tense summer

JERUSALEM--More than 2 million Israeli children went back to school on Monday after a summer spent by many in bomb shelters or far away from homes near the Gaza border.

In the wake of Israel's 50-day military campaign against Gaza militants, which began on July 8 and ended last Tuesday, the education ministry said on its website that the first two weeks of the new school year would be spent helping children “return to routine.”

On the schedule would be opportunities for youngsters to discuss their personal experiences of the fighting, during which Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired more than 4,500 rockets and mortar shells.

While border communities were the most heavily hit, rockets reached much of the country, including the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The education ministry said that the decision to open schools and kindergartens was taken in coordination with the army department which deals with civil defense.

“It was made possible after the home front command ruled that classes could be held in every part of the country,” it said.

Israeli media reported that despite complaints that some classrooms in the south were still inadequately blast-proofed, most communities would be sending their children to school.

In some cases, children would be sent to alternative sites in their area, in at least one case using an air raid shelter as temporary accommodation, they said.

In a visit to the education ministry on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished all pupils “a successful, productive and safe year.”

“I know that you did not have a real summer vacation,” he added.

Not every school opened according to plan.

In the northeast Israel Arab town of Taibe, the Amal High school delayed opening in memory of headmaster Yussuf Haj Yihye, shot dead during a staff meeting last week by a masked gunman who burst into the building and escaped.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that classes would resume on Tuesday with discussions about the murder and how to fight the endemic violent crime in the Taibe district.

In Jabel Mukaber, in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, some Palestinian parents angry at lack of classrooms tried to stop pupils entering.

When police arrived, masked protestors threw stones at them, inuring one officer in the head, a police statement said.

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Israeli students make their way to elementary school with their parents on the first day of the school year in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Israel on Monday, Sept. 1.(AFP

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