ISRAEL

How Tel Aviv residents take cover from rockets

Since Tuesday, the Israeli city of Tel Aviv has been the target of rocket fire from Gaza for the first time since November 2012. While the scream of sirens and the deafening noise of explosions have both surprised and scared residents, our Observer says that people know how to protect themselves.

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Residents of Tel Aviv take cover behind a bus shelter after a siren went off on 8 July, 2014.

Since Tuesday, the Israeli city of Tel Aviv has been the target of rocket fire from Gaza for the first time since November 2012. While the scream of sirens and the deafening noise of explosions have both surprised and scared residents, our Observer says that people know how to protect themselves.

This week, Israel began carrying out air strikes against the Gaza Strip. The death toll reached 75 Thursday morning, including at least 20 civilians, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of committing “genocide.” As tensions continue to escalate, militant group Hamas has already launched more than 70 rockets into Israel. One sailed 100 kilometers into the northern city of Hadera, the furthest a rocket fired from Gaza has been able to reach into Israel.

Swimmers evacuate Tel Aviv beach on 8 July 2014.

A rocket passes over Tel Aviv on 8 July 2014.

One of Tel Aviv’s many bomb shelters. Photo @GolanMay.

The first rockets to hit Tel Aviv fell Tuesday afternoon. There were no casualties, but many of the city’s bomb shelters were re-opened in anticipation of continued hostilities. Israelis who are not in close proximity to a shelter have to take cover as best they can when the warning sirens go off. Our Observer recorded a video as he took refuge in the stairwell of his apartment building.

Our Observer filmed this video while taking shelter from rockets in the stairwell of his apartment. He explained what is happening in the video: “My son asks: ‘What are we waiting for?’ and our neighbour answers ‘That’s a good question.’ That’s followed by nervous laughter from everyone. For me, filming what’s going on is a natural reaction. It removes me from the situation and helps me calm down a little.”

“Each time there's a siren, we know where to go and how to react”

Ronni Edry is a graphic designer in Tel Aviv. In 2012, he started the movement “Israel loves Iran” to promote peace and communication between citizens of the two countries, who have experienced years of hostile relations. This movement gave birth to the site Peace Factory.

I was at home yesterday afternoon when the sirens went off. My wife, my children and I took shelter in the ground floor stairwell of our apartment building as we always do. We don’t have a bomb shelter in our building, so it’s the next best thing. The stairwell is in the centre of the building so we are better protected there than in the apartments, where a nearby explosion could easily shatter the windows or damage the walls My apartment is on the uppermost floor, which is the most exposed to rocket fire.

There is only a minute or two between the start of the sirens and the explosions, so we have to seek shelter quickly and then wait before going back up. Usually, we hear a few explosions and then, when we don’t hear any more noise, we go back up to our apartment.

The army now has an app called “Code Red” that alerts you when a rocket is fired. I also have an app with a compass so that I can locate the north and the south. Rockets from Gaza travel in a south-north direction so it is important to be protected on the southern side.

Drivers take shelter during a rocket siren in Tel Aviv on 8 July 2014. @Yair_Rosenberg

"I keep a bag ready with my family’s important documents"

Each time there is an alarm, we know where to go and how to react. All of the shelters have re-opened, especially those next to schools. A shelter is the safest option. If that isn’t possible, people who are in the street when the sirens go off try to find the nearest building where they take shelter in the stairwell. People who are driving when the sirens go off get out and lie down next to or under their cars..

I keep a bag ready with my family’s important documents as well as a few other important items so that I have everything we need in case we have to flee.

These rocket attacks don’t actually seem to be worrying Tel Aviv residents. I guess we are pretty used to them. It’s possible that there were fewer people in the cafes and buses this morning, but life goes on. Of course I am worried for my children, but if I leave this town, where would I go? There could be an attack on a bus anywhere in the country, so I might as well stay here.

A number of rockets from Gaza have been intercepted and destroyed by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. In the past few years, Tel Aviv has invested up to 20 million shekels (or 4.3 million euros) to both modernise the city’s existing bomb shelters and to expand the network. Recently, more than 70 subterranean parking lots have been converted into underground shelters. In total, the city’s shelters can hold up to 800,000 people.