Business was slow at the outdoor market in Ashkelon today. Usually, the lunch hour is pretty busy, said a Russian-born Israeli woman who gave her name as Ella.
She runs a little fast food place. Ella said people in Ashkelon – which sits on the northern border of the Gaza Strip – were pretty spooked about the rockets, even though none have actually landed in town during the latest round of violence.
A fishmonger named Roni said he was supportive of what Israel is doing in Gaza. He said killing the Palestinian leader of the Popular Resistance Committees last week was probably a good thing, even if it sparked four straight days of rocket attacks and air strikes.
By Monday evening local time, 23 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli attacks, 18 of them were said to be militants and five civilians, including a 65 year-old man, his daughter and a couple of teenagers.
In Israel, 35 people are reportedly injured, one of them seriously.
The mayor of Ashkelon, (pictured above, on the left) Benny Vaknin, held a meeting with military, police and emergency authorities today.
One of their top concerns grew out of the recent success of the Israeli “Iron Dome” anti-missile system. According to the Israeli military, the anti-missile batteries have stopped something like three dozen incoming rockets in mid-flight since last Friday.
Two rockets managed to breach these defenses and landed in the city Beersheba yesterday. But Vaknin said people in southern Israel are overly confident. They’re not taking cover fast enough when the air strike sirens go off.
Tens of thousands of kids in southern Israel had their classes canceled today. City officials in Ashkelon are trying to figure out how many students they can fit into the limited number of bomb-proofed buildings in town, so they can keep some school activities going.
The children shown above went to work with their parents today.
The parents are essential city employees who had come to work because they help run the emergency services for Ashkelon.
The kids had “class” in the basement bomb shelter. When we visited, they were being treated to a little live show put on by a DJ and a clown.
The official in charge of Ashkelon kindergartens told me she thought the situation would probably calm down soon. In a few days, she hopes.
[Photos by Daniella Cheslow]