The long-range rocket that slammed into a seven-story building in Rishon Lezion Tuesday night leveled apartments on the top two floors and left a layer of shattered glass, concrete dust and shrapnel covering the street below.
Though no one died, the strike was the most serious in the country’s Center since Operation Pillar of Defense began last Wednesday, and represented the first successful rocket hit on the Tel Aviv area during the current round of hostilities.
Six people were lightly wounded.
The atmosphere on the street was not like at a typical rocket strike, and closely resembled that after a major terrorist attack or disaster: Dozens of search and rescue personnel were combing the area to clear out survivors, and police and soldiers were on hand along with hundreds of journalists and bystanders.
Residents of the neighborhood hit by the long-range rocket spoke dismissively of the ongoing cease-fire talks outside the building on Tuesday.
“Our neighbors in the region are watching us, and they see this as a sign of weakness. They see that we have no deterrence left and we want a cease-fire,” said Nir Levy, a 45-year-old father of three who lives on the same street as the building that was hit.
“[Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] has spoken for years about Iran, but he can’t even handle Gaza,” he declared. “He’s a nebbach [pathetic person], and Israel has to go do what we have to do and go into Gaza like we did in the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield [in 2002], until the problem is solved.”
Erez Ozeri and his son Miro were sitting in their ground-floor apartment when they heard the rocket warning siren and rushed to their safe room. After the attack, they said, they came outside only to see their apartment entirely ruined inside, even though it was seven floors below the impact.
“I’m in favor of going in [to Gaza] and dealing with this like we need to. I don’t want us to agree to some cease-fire and then in another six months or a year just have them firing on us all over again,” Erez said. “They only understand force.”
Eliza Levy, who also lives on the street, demanded to know, “How is the government thinking of a ceasefire when they’re still shelling us?” Levy – who has three children, including two sons in their mid-20s who have not yet received reserve-duty call-up orders – said that “of course we’re worried about the soldiers, but we have to take care of this problem.”
A truce also seemed light years away from the Chahamov house in Beersheba, where a Grad rocket scored a direct hit on Tuesday, devastating the entire top floor while the family of seven hid in their safe room.
Ronit Chahamov said she had heard the siren Tuesday morning and run upstairs to wake her children and hurry them into the safe room. Her son Matan said that the day before, he had slept through a rocket siren, but the alarm woke him on Tuesday shortly before the projectile hit, leaving his upstairs room a shattered concrete shell.
Ronit said they had heard the booms and thought the rocket had struck out in the street. Only when they emerged from the safe room did they see their home almost entirely destroyed.
“The feeling is awful. We lost everything – family albums, clothes,” she said.
Asked if she supported an IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip, she said, “Either a cease-fire or a ground operation, it doesn’t matter, as long as there’s quiet here in the South.”
Beersheba saw heavy rocket fire on Tuesday, and in the skies above the city, there were nearly constant fighter jet traffic, Iron Dome contrails, and the sounds of explosions and rocket sirens from nearby towns.
The Chahamov house was buzzing with neighbors and friends, who came bringing food and drinks and offering the family a place to stay in the coming days. A table in the courtyard was already piled high with food courtesy of a local wedding hall, and friends repeatedly came to embrace Ronit, who by mid-afternoon appeared to be suffering from shock.
Yuval Yermiyahu, a paramedic with United Hatzalah who lives nearby, said he had been the first responder at the scene and walked into the shattered house to see the Chahamovs emerging from their shelter in shock. Judging by the damage to the house, if the family hadn’t been in their safe room, they would all have died, he said.
Liat and Ayal Sarusi, close friends of the Chahamovs, observed the devastation during a visit to see if they could help out somehow.
Liat, a mother of four girls, said, “I’m willing to stay in the safe room as long as it takes for the IDF to go and finish their work and ensure there is quiet for the South. I don’t want there to be a cease-fire and then a month from now to have the rockets all over again.” •