Residents of Haifa go underground, abandon beaches and cafes

The handful of people at the beach may have been the most daring in Haifa on Monday, where streets, cafes and stores were empty or closed, preparing to absorb volleys of Hezbollah rockets. The deadly barrage that hit Israel's third-largest city Sunday and killed eight people turned this usually vibrant city along Israel's northern coast into a virtual ghost-town as people stayed indoors. Air raid sirens wailed repeatedly Monday, a stark reminder that Haifa's residents were still living in warlike conditions and were under military orders to remain in underground bunkers or other secure areas. Police, their car sirens blaring and lights flashing, worked to get stragglers off the streets, forcing the few taxi drivers who braved the roads to go inside. Rocket barrages continued to bombard the city Monday, almost completely destroying a three-story apartment building, the blast singing its insides and wounding three people. A total of seven rockets hit the city of 270,000. Despite the bitter memories of a bloody 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in May 2000, Israelis are currently united behind the government and the army, anxious to beat down Hizbullah and teach its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, a lesson. "What the army is doing is not enough. We should have done this long before," said Tzvika Gottesman, a 69-year-old Haifa resident who kept up his daily routine of heading to the beach after running his errands. "I'm not afraid. I've eaten Katyushas (rockets) in my life the way you eat macaroni. I fought in all the wars, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Sinai," he said. Still, Gottesman was only one of about 20 people who braved the coast, usually packed with hundreds of sunbathers in Israel's hot summer months. In Haifa's city center, cafes were empty or closed. One lone grocery store remained open, and the owner, Malka Afargan, said with sales up 30 percent since Sunday's deadly rocket attack, she was almost out of eggs. In a wartime mood, people are stocking up on bread, water and canned goods, she said. But Haifa residents appeared to be willing to suffer the rocket barrages - at least for now - until the army fulfills its goal of pushing Hezbollah away from its border and forcing the Lebanese government to send its army to man the shared frontier. "It was about time that Israel attacks Lebanon. They have kidnapped our soldiers ... and today it's pay day," said Shimon Levy, 31. Laughing with his friends as he came out of the Mediterranean's warm waters, Levy did lament that "pay day" would have to come during the summer. "We just want to go to the beach and have fun, but the problem is that there are no girls on the beach today," he said.