Israelis worry about cover as rockets reach deeper

ASHDOD, Israel (Reuters) – For many residents of southern Israel, the fighting in the nearby Gaza Strip is measured not in days or hours, but in the number of seconds they have to take cover when Hamas rockets rain down.

Days of Noah

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
—Matthew 24:37


“The earth also was corrupt before God,and the earth was filled with violence”.
—Genesis 6:11

Israel in the Last Days

“And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not: So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
—Zechariah 8:13-15

In coastal Ashdod, where a woman was killed by a rocket on Monday, about 40 seconds elapse between the “Code Red” warning sounded over loudspeakers and the blast of impact.

The city is 35 km (22 miles) from north Gaza and, before Israel launched an air assault on Hamas on Saturday, had been untouched by the Palestinian Islamists’ salvoes. Many of its 230,000 residents still cannot believe they are now under fire.

“We’re still in shock. Never in my life had I heard a ‘Code Red’ in Ashdod,” said Eli, a 40-year-old taxi driver.

The rockets, some homemade and others factory-produced and smuggled into Gaza, have killed four Israelis since the fighting began. Hamas has been deploying more powerful rockets by the day as part of a strategy it has dubbed the “Burning Oil Slick.”

Israel has killed more than 380 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip barrage since Saturday and demands that any new truce in Gaza guarantee that the rocket fire end.

Eli, who gave only his first name, was one of the first to reach the slain woman. She had bolted from her car to seek shelter after a siren sounded, but tripped and fell in the street, where she was shredded by the shrapnel of a rocket.

“It was like a nightmare. And you can still feel the tension,” he said.

Haim Rosen, 13, said he was constantly thinking about places where he could take cover if sirens sounded again.

“It looks like any other day, but it feels different,” Rosen said during a break from riding his bicycle on sidewalks still crowded with pedestrians. “Until now, we thought the alarms would only be heard in Ashkelon or further south.”

In Ashkelon, 20 km (12 miles) closer to Gaza, the “Code Red” gives people about 30 seconds to find shelter. Though residents are more familiar with the sirens, having experienced rocket salvoes in the past, their routine has changed.

Shopping malls are often closed and the municipality and other government offices work out of fortified rooms or in underground shelters.

But the impact is perhaps most felt in small Israeli border communities where residents can see Gaza from their backyards.

There, they have only a 10-second warning of incoming rockets. Should the Palestinians fire low-flying mortar bombs instead, these can be missed by Israel’s radars entirely.

Many towns are empty, with women and children preferring to stay with friends and family who are out of Hamas’s range.

Nitzan Shay, 42, a farm-hand who lives in Kibbutz Nirim, about 2 km (1 mile) from Gaza, stayed back to work the fields while his family moved north.

“It’s mostly just the men who stayed here,” he said. “And the older folks, who have seen wars before and are not scared of anything.”

(Editing by Alison Williams)

  1. J, 01 January, 2009

    I’ve lived in Ashdod for over 15 years. Being so near to Gaza, I always figured this was coming, but even those who expected it didn’t expect it to happen so soon (although I’m sure the security services were well versed in Hamas’ plans).
    Just one month ago, I was joking with friends about rockets reaching Ashdod, and how it was bound to happen eventually… now it’s happening. It’s beyond surreal. Ashdod is usually a serene, vacation-atmosphered city. Now, our calm has been shattered. People don’t leave their houses. Stores and malls are emptied. Should you need to go out for whatever reason, you’re always thinking “if there’s a siren, where do I go for cover” (and this is the thinking of someone who believes God is watching over her).
    The Israeli government (which allowed this situation to develop by their inaction, despite their knowledge of Gazan activities) need to hit and hit hard. Otherwise this can go on forever. But will they?
    I have a feeling that this is just the beginning, that what’s happening in Israel will have world-wide implications (likely increasing anti-Semitic sentiments everywhere). The situation here in Israel, the financial situation in the U.S. and elsewhere… seems like the beginning of the end. Much as I don’t like any of it, I know it’s all going according to God’s plan.

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