Haifa on edge

"When the Katyusha fell, we understood that it was war." Residents of Haifa faced with new reality.

haifa 88 (photo credit: )
haifa 88
(photo credit: )
A dent in a sidewalk, frantic newscasts blaring from radios and TV screens and a shortage of canned goods at supermarkets were the only real clues that something had changed in this city on Friday. Residents of Israel's third largest city always suspected that Hizbullah would one day target their seaside town. But they were still surprised when the rockets hit. The two rockets on Thursday landed feebly on sidewalks near Haifa's city center, causing no casualties. But they sent a message that hundreds of thousands more Israelis were now within range of deadly attacks and helped convince the government - already eager to use its formidable military might - to step up its offensive in Lebanon. "When the Katyusha fell, we understood that it was war," said Judy Golan, 55. "We were waiting for it." "Israel should act now and do whatever needs to be done," said 78-year-old lifelong Haifa resident Shmuel Rottman. "We're going to put them (Hezbollah) in their place, and we have to do it while we still have time to do it." Itzik Zachari, 31, said Hizbullah crossed a red line with the attack and he was "looking forward" to fighting them in Lebanon. "I was really shocked. I know they have that kind of weapon, but to use it against Haifa is a declaration of war," he said. Haifa, home to Israel's largest passenger ship port, major oil refineries and several key industrial installations, including several chemical plants, sits about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Lebanese border. Haifa is the deepest target ever hit by Hizbullah. On Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said that Hizbullah had rockets that could go as far as 70 kilometers, or farther. With Hamas terrorists in Gaza expanding the range of their homemade rockets along the southern border, Israel is sandwiched between a pair of terror groups that are using inaccurate but sometimes deadly rocket fire to sow fear. In Haifa on Friday, the army allowed residents to remain outdoors for most of the day despite the threat of more rocket attacks. Shops were open, restaurants were full and the streets were filled with traffic. Yet the beaches were less crowded and bread shops sold out quickly. Canned goods at supermarkets were getting scarce. Some gas stations stayed open well past closing time on the night of the attack. By evening, the army ordered Haifa residents back into bomb shelters or bombproof rooms in their homes, preparing them for a weekend to be spent mostly indoors. "I'm a little scared," admitted Taner Elizarov, 24. "There's a feeling of war."