Israelis readjust after truce stops rockets raining down - for now

·3-min read
Israelis get ready to leave a public bomb shelter following Israel-Hamas truce, in Ashkelon

By Eli Berlzon

ASHKELON, Israel (Reuters) - Tidying up her building's bomb shelter after 11 days of conflict when Palestinian militant rockets rained down, Israeli mother Tammy Zamir felt relief mixed with worry that a truce to this round of fighting did not mean an end to the violence.

"I am happy that it's over but on the other side I'm certain there will be another escalation and we will be scared once again and have to go down to the shelter," she said, speaking in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Looking on, after alerts had rung out night and day, Zamir's son Osher said: "I’m scared of the rocket sirens and the rockets falling."

Friday's ceasefire means Israelis in Ashkelon and other cities in rocket range can now start to resume normal routines that were put on hold during what the military said was one of the heaviest barrages Israel has ever faced.

Israel, in turn, launched round-the-clock airstrikes on Gaza, in its latest flare-up with Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the enclave which has 2 million people, many of them refugees, some of them families originally from Ashkelon.

About 4,400 rockets were fired at Israel, with about 600 falling inside Gaza and many others stopped by Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system. But rockets still got through, slamming into homes, synagogues and other buildings.

"We would have liked Hamas to have been eliminated but we knew it would not happen," Tomer Glam, mayor of Ashkelon, told Israeli broadcaster Kan on Friday. "The biggest damage has been its toll sadly on our people."

Israel says 13 people have been killed in the conflict, the fourth between Israel and Hamas since the group took control of Gaza in 2007.

Palestinians, who put their death toll at 243, were also emerging to view flattened buildings and other damage in the narrow strip of land surrounded by Israel, the Mediterranean Sea and small stretch of border with Egypt.

"I support the truce," said Israeli engineer Evgeniy Stan, speaking from the southern coastal city of Ashdod. "Continuing won't bring about the collapse of Hamas or further deterrence."

Israel, the United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. Hamas says it is struggling to secure Palestinian rights against Israeli oppression.

Roza Shmueli, in the Israeli city of Ashdod, recounted to Channel 12 television how she sought to encourage her children during rocket raids, saying she didn't have a shelter to go to. "I tried to reassure them that everything was ok," she said.

Both sides declared victory. Hamas said the conflict showed its growing ability to fight. Israel said it had eliminated enemy command structures and damaged its military capacity. Both also said they were ready to take up arms again if necessary.

But, for Zamir, the truce was at least a moment to pause. "We are going home, we are going home," she sang to her children as they climbed the stairs back to their apartment.

(Additional reporting by Lee Marzel; Writing by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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