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Ninety seconds to safety in Israel rocket barrage



“We have our granddaughters here, three and five years old, so I have to act brave,” said South African olah Jolleen Hayon, from her home town of Ashkelon. “There are lots of sirens, one after the other, and loud booms.”

Hayon was speaking at about 13:00 on Wednesday, 10 May, as Gaza militants indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians with a barrage of about 350 rockets. However, after the vow by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Palestinian factions to retaliate vigorously, Wednesday afternoon’s attack was over almost as soon as it began. About 150 projectiles either fell short inside the Gaza Strip or landed in the sea.

The Israeli population had been waiting with bated breath for a possible attack after the Israeli military struck PIJ leaders and weapon manufacturing facilities in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of 9 May in response to months of attacks from the PIJ. Senior group members Jahed Ahnam, Khalil Bahitini, and Tarek Az Aldin were killed in what Israel called Operation Shield and Arrow, which was launched at the end of Lag B’Omer.

Though schools and universities were closed, hospitals remained open. South African Erin Midzuk, who is doing her sherut leumi (national community service) at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, said she could see rockets being fired from Gaza and heard the booms on impact.

“One patient told me to look outside. I thought he was showing me a bird or something, and then I realised he was pointing to the rockets being fired from Gaza. I could see them through his hospital window. I work on the top floor, so we’re the most exposed. We have 90 seconds to get to a safe place. When the alert went off earlier, nurses were running up and down the rooms telling patients who were able to walk to make their way downstairs. It was the worst feeling ever leaving patients behind who couldn’t leave their beds.

“About two hours ago, the rockets started,” said South African olah Gila Nussbaum, an emergency physician, speaking around the same time as Hayon. “[It was] initially in areas close to Gaza like Sderot but now also Ashkelon and Ashdod. We’re waiting with bated breath for the sirens to start closer to the mercaz [centre]. So far, all calm in Modi’in [where she lives]. But I’m going in to Ashdod for a night shift tonight.”

South African olah Leanne Manshari and her family “decided to leave Ashkelon this morning [10 May] in dreadful anticipation [of the expected attack]. We are at my sister-in-law up north.”

Olim in Jerusalem reported that all was quiet, but Lili Kovler, who lives there, came to Tel Aviv for work on 10 May. “As I arrived in Tel Aviv, we heard interception booms but no sirens yet,” she said. She feels confident that she’s safe, and says “as long as you’re indoors or near a shelter you’re okay”.

In Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, and Holon, other South African olim said they had sheltered as sirens began, but the alerts were over quickly. In Be’er Sheva, olah Dani Weinstein said nothing had happened yet, but there was a “tense calm”. She planned to move her 2.5 year old and 15-month old into her mamad (shelter room) to sleep on the night of 10 May.

A rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in the southern town of Sderot, but there were no injuries. One rocket landed on the roof of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, causing minor damage.

Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted most projectiles. Flights were briefly stopped from landing at Ben Gurion Airport, and then returned to normal. In response to the rockets, The Israel Defense Forces said its warplanes and helicopters had hit about 40 PIJ rocket launchers and mortars in Gaza. It was continuing to attack sites belonging to the terror group.

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