Ashkelon was a city of rocket survivors

Although Palestinians in Gaza have launched rockets at Ashkelon for more than a decade, they are now more powerful and the pace more frequent than anyone can remember.

Rocket-hit building in Ashkelon (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Rocket-hit building in Ashkelon
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The rocket that hit their Ashkelon building on Tuesday and the flying glass that followed left Michelle Cohen and her 98-year-old mother, Nina, unscathed.
“God loves us, it was a miracle,” said Cohen hours later, as she stood in front of her apartment building close to the Mediterranean Sea.
Her neighbor in a nearby apartment in the same building was less lucky and died of wounds sustained in the attack. So although her apartment was temporarily uninhabitable and she did not know where she, her mother, or her dog would sleep, the 63-year-old Cohen was of a mindset to count her blessings.

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Running for shelter was not an option when the siren rang out hours earlier, because her mother depends on a walker and moves very slowly.
“I can’t take her to the shelter every time,” Cohen explained, adding, “I don’t want to just run and leave her.”
She had hoped that nothing would happen. Instead, “all the windows in the entire apartment exploded. All the glass came down. There were pieces of glass all over the living room and on our beds. We were in the living room on the sofa. We were just so shocked, we couldn’t believe what we saw.”
Cohen remained calm as they packed a small bag and left. Now she stood on the sidewalk outside, with glass shards scattered around her. Behind her stretched red police tape across a number of metal grates. Above, one could see the broken windows and the black burned tiles where her apartment was located. Further down the street her mother and her dog sat in her brown Mitsubishi, while Cohen worked the phones and tried to figure out where they could go.
“I don’t know what we are going to do,” said Cohen, tall with mid-length gray hair, still shocked at how they had narrowly missed disaster.
“I looked around in the house, nothing broke except the windows,” she said. “It’s pretty miraculous.”
She noted that her glass table on the porch survived. “Even my bonsai didn’t break.”
The barrage of rockets was so intense on Tuesday afternoon that police asked city residents not to leave their homes. Those that did found themselves falling to the ground every few minutes as sirens rang out, or running for a nearby shelter.

Michelle Cohen Michelle Cohen
Although Palestinians in Gaza have launched rockets at Ashkelon for more than a decade, they are now more powerful, and the pace more frequent than anyone can remember.
A short distance away, Tzuri Gerbi was cleaning out the freezer that stood outside his small market.
“There was a siren,” said Gerbi. “We went to the safe room and then there was a strong explosion,” and the building seemed to shake. Now, he said, “I am trying to put things in order so we can open as usual.”
Throughout the day, close to 100 wounded, many suffering from shock, streamed into nearby Barzilai Medical Center.
Among them was Yosef Earkei, who was using a sharp knife when the siren startled him. The knife slipped and cut his hand, sending him to the emergency room, where he fainted upon arrival. Hospital staff initially imagined that he was a serious trauma victim and cut his clothing.
Tzuri Teshuva was on his way to work in Ashkelon when he heard a siren and hid by his car, only to discover that his sister and her husband had been injured in an attack on their home. The couple, he said, was not able to make it to the shelter.
He was not waiting alone. His sister’s husband is one of seven brothers, most of whom arrived at the hospital and now waited outside.
Sivan Naim was with her one-year-old but fell down a flight of stairs heading to a shelter. Now she lay in a hospital bed, having hurt her legs.
Hagai Ezra hurt his hand as he headed to a safe room with his two daughters.
“I was more scared than they were,” Ezra said.
When asked how long he felt the city could survive such a rocket barrage, he responded, “it’s hard,” adding that “it has never been this bad.”
Another Ashkelon resident said that the situation “had already crossed the line” into intolerable.