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Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 7:45am

Iron Dome Embraces Tel Aviv As Residents Take Cover

Updated: 2 years ago.
Israeli civilians run for cover during a rocket attack launched from from Gaza on Saturday in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Sarah and Yael Levintin raised their wine glasses to the sky and toasted the Iron Dome system that had just been deployed outside Israel's commercial center.

The two sisters decided to leave their apartment Friday evening after two rockets fired into the Tel Aviv area were successfully intercepted by the system.

"We had stayed home all day because we didn't want to take the chance that, you know, we'd be away from the bomb shelter," said Yael Levintin. "We aren't used to war. I guess we are kinda babies about it."

As sirens sounded in Tel Aviv for the third day in a row on Saturday, beachgoers dove into the sand and pedestrians ducked behind cars in a city that has not seen a rocket strike in over two decades.

Across Tel Aviv, bars and restaurants appeared subdued and tables remained half-empty. Waiters joked with clients that if a rocket warning siren sounded, they would receive their food half-off, as nervous eaters asked about the nearest shelters.

"Tel Aviv just isn't used to this. We are a city that is used to being protected from all the war around us," said Moti Amit, a 26-year-old waiter in the popular Aroma coffee chain. "Most of the people who came in today wanted take-away. No one is really lingering over their coffee."

Israel's political and military echelons have called for a harsh response to the ongoing rocket fire into central and southern Israel.

On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced an additional call-up of reserves, as tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers streamed towards the border with Gaza in preparation for a potential ground operation into Gaza.

Speaking during a background briefing to reporters, one senior Israeli military official said that Israel's political leaders would be "more inclined" to order a boots-on-the-ground operation in Gaza if rocket attacks to Israel's center persisted.

"The widening of the operation, the extension of it to the center of Israel is a 'red line' that has been crossed," he said.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that the rocket that had been intercepted over Tel Aviv Friday was an Iranian-made Fajr 5. Israel's first day of air strikes in Gaza purported to target those long-range missiles, among other weapons caches.

An Israeli military spokesman said that eliminating the Fajrs was a priority, though he stressed that militant groups in Gaza still had "thousands upon thousands" of rockets that they could fire into Israeli communities.

As of Friday, Israel police said that more then 600 rockets had been fired into Israel by militants in Gaza. More then 240 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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