(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff )
Itai Hashbi returned home to Sderot on a 24-hour leave after fighting in Gaza for three weeks, only to narrowly miss a Kassam rocket that landed Monday afternoon on the small narrow lane right outside his single family home.
"Luckily, we had just left to go visit his grandmother," his mother Avigail told The Jerusalem Post.
But they returned after neighbors called to tell them that a Palestinian-launched rocket from Gaza had fallen by their front gate.
Metal shards from the rocket were scattered everywhere, marking the walls of the house and the tree by the outside stairwell.
Even the clothing that hung on the plastic laundry rack had not survived unscathed, said Avigail's husband, Yossi, as he held up a pair of red sweat pants to show the holes the metal had made. He unclenched the fingers of his other hand, revealing a metal shard that he had picked up from the yard.
Had the rocket fallen last week, it was likely that at least Avigail and her five-year-old daughter, Lehi, would have been home, Avigail said.
"But this week, they sent the children back to school," said Avigail, as she looked at her daughter, who was playing with two of her friends in a small open room a few stairs up from the kitchen.
As they surveyed the damage, she and her husband fielded phone calls from friends who checked to see if they were all right.
In the house next door, Ahinoam Naftali, 19, said she had been less lucky than the Hashbi family. Around 12:45 p.m. she had been in her bedroom chatting with a friend when the warning siren rang out.
"I barely had time to hang up when I heard the shriek of the missile and then a loud explosion. It felt as if the house had been lifted up off its foundation," she said.
When she emerged from her room she saw that the large window by the front door had broken and furniture had fallen.
"I called my mother at work and then I called my brother to tell them that a rocket had fallen near the house," she said.
This was Naftali's third close call with a rocket. One fell near the home of a friend while she visited and another crashed down near her school when she was a high school senior.
"Sderot is a small place and rockets have been falling here for seven years," she said. "So most people in the city have been close to a rocket at one time or another."
"It's like living in a permanent game of Russian roulette," said her neighbor Leah Yehine, 68, who was also home at the time of the attack.
Yehine's husband Gilad, 75, said he had just parked the car when the siren rang out and was able to make it into the house so he could stand in the corner of the kitchen with his wife.
Metal shards from the rocket peppered their door and the shock of the explosion dislodged the second story window from its frame.
But even as his neighbor Yossi Hashbi said he was hopeful that the rocket threat to his city was about to end, Gilad Yehine was skeptical.
"Our lives will be like this for many years to come," he said.