Wake up, check the news. On Day 5 it seems as though ceasefire talks are underway. French foreign minister flying in. Hamas reps talking to the Egyptians in Cairo. Quiet night in the south and no missiles shot down over Tel Aviv since yesterday morning. On the other hand, tens of thousands of reservists called up with the army preparing itself for a possible ground incursion. Tanks and artillery lined up to go in. Israel, like Hamas with its missiles aimed at symbolic Tel Aviv, upping the ante to deter the other side and/ improve its own starting point for setting cease-fire terms. General impression : Israel doesn't want to send in ground troops but will do if Hamas halts its fire. Hamas wouldn't mind a cease-fire but needs this round to end in a victory so demanding its own terms (opening of Rafah crossing, halt to targeted assassinations). Thankfully drink coffee. Make fruit salad, feeling uncomfortable positioned between a ceasefire and a serious escalation,
Go for a walk. Glorious weather. Decide not to take any form of communication with me so as to be liberated from the news for 45 minutes. Through the quaint alleyways of Neve Tzedek to the beach. Sea as flat as a plate. Sand sparkles in the morning sunlight. A few swimmers, joggers and cyclists. Back home, switch on radio. Earnest conversation with expert on the amazing success rate of Iron Dome rocket interception system suddenly interrupted by a calm but insistent voice: "Colour Red siren in the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council"; the signal for everyone in that area to scramble for the shelters. An actress selling accident insurance to the over 50s punctuated by "Colour Red alert in Ashdod, Colour Red alert in Ashdod." Appears that the talks aren't going so well, or perhaps that these are their final salvos aimed at justifying a declaration of victory before the cease fire kicks in? Take a shower. Start worrying about a ground incursion. Tying up my shoes before going out, I hear the siren go off outside. Chain reaction:
Uncertainty: Is that really a siren?
Fear: A missile could land on my head and kill me!!
Rationalization. After all what are the statistical chances of my specific building being hit?
Irrational Confusion: 'Where the hell did I put the phone? Can't go downstairs without the phone..
Out of the door and to the landing one floor down which, according to the Home Front Command, is the safest place to be if you live on the third floor of a three floor building and can't otherwise get to the shelter in a minute and a half. Hear the families on the bottom floors entering the shelter which we recently cleared of excess bikes to make room for its original purpose. Think to myself, this is stupid, after all what are the statistical chances of my specific building being hit? Hear very audible BOOM!. Think thank goodness I wisely chose this relatively protected space. See neighbour 'L' slowly opening her door clutching two month old baby girl, both of them bleary eyed ,and slowly descend the steps, . "They seem to time them with her naps," L tells me unhappily, clearly feeling the pressure. "Is it over?" she asks? I tell her it is and we both go back up. I tell her to tell me if she needs anything. Back in the flat I remember that you're supposed to stay in protected space for 10 minutes after siren. What the hell. 'A' calls. Tells me that someone saw the rocket being intercepted over the sea opposite Yaffo. Radio presenter reminds me and other spoiled residents of central Israel that what we just experienced has been the daily experience of residents of the south for 12 years. I also wonder what it feels like in Gaza with over a thousand airstrikes in 4 days.
Walk to the post office, shops, forgetting to follow Home Front instructions to constantly spy out protected spaces should I be caught short by an incoming missile. Neighbourhood as usual. People in cafes, girls on bikes, except that an ever higher percentage are glued to their phones. Serious cash register problems at Bagir menswear outlet unconnected to Operation Pillar of Defense. Lady at post office especially friendly: perhaps something to do with wartime camaraderie? At the local mini market I ask 'N' the cashier where they run to when the sirens go off. To the ground floor of a building under construction over the road, she says.
Back home, see this:
"The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted two rockets fired at Tel Aviv Sunday morning. A siren sounded in the central city shortly before the interception and an explosion was heard. Hamas's Izzadin Kassam Brigades took responsibility for the launches.Shrapnel from the interception struck a car in the greater Tel Aviv area, setting the vehicle on fire. There were no immediate reports of injury."
The car hot by shrapnel in Holon from the rocket interception over Tel Aviv. The driver jumped out in time and was saved.
Start fretting that these "strategic" attacks on Tel Aviv might push Bibi/Barak into ordering a ground incursion. See that, according to US officials, "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu assured US President Barack Obama on Friday that he does not plan to launch a ground operation in the Gaza Strip - unless Hamas escalates its rocket war. Wonder if those two rockets constitute an escalation?
Check out the news sites: Rocket seriously wounds man in Sha'ar Hanegev region. Rocket strikes building in Ashkelon : no injuries. Netanyahu: IDF prepared to broaden Gaza operations. IAF strikes launching area of Tel Aviv bound missiles.25 missiles hit Israel throughout the morning. MDA treats 4 injured throughout the morning. 12 for shock.
On TV, another expert is in the middle of a long winded Koranic analogy demonstrating Hamas's duplicity vis -a- vis the Islamist splinter groups in Gaza when we cut to Ashdod where the sirens a have been blaring. See pictures of a bombed out living room. Nobody hurt because they were in the stairwell. Turns out that Naftali Bennet, new head of the religious-rightist Jewish Home is also in Ashdod. He wants to stop messing about, send in the army, topple the Hamas government, reoccupy Gaza and set up an Israeli controlled buffer between Gaza and Egypt to halt the flow of missiles. A siren goes off behind him. TV announcer says we're halting the interview. Naftali runs for shelter.We see a picture of a deserted square in the middle of Ashdod, sirens wailing. Later local residents emerge, one of them competing with reporter for camera's attention and telling us that she's prepared to stay in the shelters for as long as it takes as long as they let the army do the job and stop the missiles "once and for all. Amen!"
Radio expert says that the next 24 hours will be "crucial".Tune into Galei Tzahal for news but the army station is broadcasting from the Sapir Regional College near Sderot, a town noted for the disproportionate number of talented musicians as well as the disproportionate number of Qassam rockets it has absorbed.We're hearing an interview with a promising local singer-songwriter about to release his first alum but are interrupted by "Colour Red siren in the Eshkol Regional Council". Sorry, Noam, when did you say the album was coming out?
17.15. By now 70 rockets fired at Israel today, 40 of which intercepted. But no firing for the past 90 minutes. Reports coming in of an entire Gazan family killed. Gazan death toll now 60. Expert says that following the massive airstrikes of the first few days, Gazans don't know when the next one is coming. They've stocked up on food and water and are staying indoors. IDF has taken over Hamas radio and TV broadcasting messages to stay away from Hamas firing positions and warning of an impending ground incursion.Not far away, tens of thousands of young soldiers and older reservists are waiting for an order that may or not come. Each of them with a family and friends. Expert 1 says problem is that neither side yet has the "winning picture" that can allow it to halt without losing face. Expert 2 says that a tahadiye/ cease fire agreement has almost been reached but predicted it wouldn't last more than a month or two before unraveling like all the others. Ma shehaya ze ma sheyihyeh.
What happened in the past, we'll have in the future.