© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Israeli man takes a picture with his cellphone in a residential building after a rocket fired overnight from Gaza Strip hit it in Ashkelon, Israel on May 14, 2021. REUTERS / Amir Cohen / File Photo
By Amir Cohen and Ari Rabinovitch
ASHKELON, Israel (Reuters) – Sirens wail, radio broadcasts are paused, cell phones beep every few seconds with red warnings, and warning messages flash on television. When you hear them, take cover.
This has become routine in much of central and southern Israel, from small towns bordering the Gaza Strip to the metropolis of Tel Aviv and southern Beersheva.
This week alone, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired more than 2,000 rockets into Israel in the midst of the heaviest fighting between Israeli-Gaza militants since 2014.
It’s not a routine to ever get used to, said Lior Dabush of the coastal city of Ashkelon, about 12 km north of Gaza.
“We rarely leave the house,” said 37-year-old Dabush from the “safe” room in her apartment – a mandatory feature of all new homes in Israel – where she now sleeps with her two children.
“We take a quick shower and don’t dare to venture far from home,” she told Reuters. “Sometimes my eight-year-old son doesn’t want to leave the safe room.”
Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, launched the latest round of rocket attacks on Monday after Palestinian anger over the threat of evictions of families from East Jerusalem and clashes by Israeli police with believers near Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, were widespread.
The missile threat even penetrated into Jerusalem when impacts in villages on the outskirts set sirens off in the center of the city, forcing Israelis participating in an annual holiday to take cover, some under the medieval battlements of Jaffa’s gate entrance to the walled old city .
“DAMAGED FOR LIFE”
On the other side of the Gaza Strip border, Palestinian civilians are also found between the militant groups firing the missiles and the Israeli military, which bombarded Gaza with hundreds of air and artillery shells for days.
North Gaza residents have fled their homes to seek refuge in United Nations-run schools, and Palestinian officials say at least 124 people have been killed there, including 31 children.
The rockets killed eight people in Israel, including a five-year-old who was hit by shrapnel that managed to pierce the shielding of his reinforced “safe” room.
This attack occurred in the border town of Sderot, where it is only a matter of seconds between siren and impact and the streets are largely free of pedestrians.
Idit Botera, mother of a one-year-old child, said her sixth floor apartment was damaged in the same dam on Wednesday.
“We still haven’t come to terms with what happened, our blood is boiling,” she said shortly after the strike. “These are children who are damaged for life and it doesn’t make any sense.”
The impact on children – and the impact it will later have on them – is a common issue for Israelis near Gaza, for whom missiles are an undesirable but inevitable fact in life.
Earlier this week, in Netiv Haasara, a small Israeli community north of the barrier separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, tour guide Raz Shmilovitch, 45, reflected on the toll the recent hostilities were taking.
“My family is not here now, I have moved them to a more secluded safe place where they can stay safer,” he said.
“In the longer term, we have to deal with the consequences of raising post-traumatic children after the end of the war,” he told Reuters.
“If you’ve lived all your life as a kid under the risk of missiles being fired and landed in your back yard, and you have between five and seven seconds between alarm and impact, and that’s the reality you’re used to brings.” messed up your brain. ”