It happened in an instant.
We were watching from our hotel balcony on Saturday the Tel Aviv beach scene, full of happy families frolicking in the Mediterranean. Then we suddenly heard sirens and loudspeaker warnings, and saw people taking cover.
Some rushed into the lobby of our hotel to take advantage of the building’s bomb shelter. Cameraman Pierre and I immediately climbed up to the rooftop, where we listened to the explosions and saw rockets roaring through the skies.
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Once again, Israel’s battle with the Hamas militant group based in the Gaza Strip has been brought back to residents of the country’s largest city, about 65 km away.
Hamas also sent a barrage of missiles into the center of the country. Most were wiped out by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But a few have succeeded. One of them hit the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan about a mile from where we are, killing one person, injuring several others and damaging buildings and cars.
After that our hotel manager came over to check if we were okay. As we watched the aerial duel, we chatted with another hotel guest and he told us how it was the last time Tel Aviv was hit by Hamas earlier this week. He said the building, including the window frames, was rocked by the blasts.
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The Hamas group spokesman said the rocket barrage was in response to an Israeli strike on a refugee camp in Gaza which they said killed an extended Palestinian family of 10, including children. They also worryingly said they could target Tel Aviv over the next six months.
Hamas’s broader reach is just one of the many surprises Israel faces as it fights this time around. Palestinian rockets once posed a limited threat, making them a few kilometers across the border with Gaza. This kept hostilities localized.
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The latest rockets can target much of Israel – indiscriminately, as most of them are unguided. Israel’s defense system has basically kept pace with the progress, but an estimated 10% of missiles escape anti-missile fire.
And if there are thousands of them in Hamas’ arsenal, it could cause many more problems for civilians.
Hours after missiles swept through Tel Aviv’s skies, police patrolled the beach in an attempt to convince stragglers it wasn’t a safe place to spend their free time. But at least some resisted the warnings and continued to enjoy the hot early summer sun. Despite a murderous and tortured geopolitical entanglement … a life goes on.