Middle East

Gaza crisis: Tel Aviv adjusts to life in rocket-range

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Media captionPeople on the beach fled as sirens sounded in Tel Aviv on Saturday

Tel Aviv is beginning the new working week on a higher level of alert.

On Saturday, sirens sounded for a third consecutive day warning of an incoming rocket fired from Gaza.

People spending the Jewish Sabbath by the beach were sent rushing for cover.

The Israeli military used its Iron Dome defence system to intercept and destroy the missile.

A fifth battery had been added to it, just outside the city, only hours earlier.

After the explosion, close to the coast, a small black cloud was left hanging in the sky over the sea.

'Finish this problem'

Tel Aviv is Israel's largest city and commercial centre but it is also a popular place to relax or party.

However, despite the sunshine, outdoor restaurants, parks and pavements were much quieter over the weekend.

It has taken a psychological adjustment for locals to realise that they too are now within the firing range of certain Palestinian rockets - believed to be the Iranian-made Fajr-5, which can reach up to 75km (45 miles).

"For Tel Aviv people this is a bit of a shock. The rockets hit all the time in the north and south of Israel but in Tel Aviv this never happens. I've lived here for ten years," said a jogger, Tzipi.

Soli, who was carrying his little daughter, remarked: "Everyone is talking about it. You can see the streets are emptier than usual and this is from just a few missiles."

But he said there was broad support for the continuing military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

"I'm not happy with the situation where we are bombing Gaza but I think we have to do it, we have to defend ourselves," he said.

A retired man, Amos, agreed that Palestinian militants posed a real threat.

"We have to finish this problem. This is the language they understand, not the language of peace," he said.

Asked about the government decision to authorise the call-up of up to 75,000 military reservists, he gave his strong approval.

"We have the force. We need to have it," he said. "I'm sorry about it but this is our life, our destiny."

Image caption Israel says it hit at least 200 targets in Gaza on Saturday, including PM Ismail Haniya's office

With Israeli troops continuing to head towards the Gaza border and speculation about a possible ground invasion, this is a difficult time for families with members serving in the military.

"I'm very worried because my son is doing his national service. He will go south," one man said as his wife's eyes filled with tears.

"This is what happens, I cry every time I think of my son," she added.

'We are prepared'

The Israeli military, which has its vast headquarters in Tel Aviv, told the BBC that its offensive was putting Hamas, which governs Gaza, "under great pressure".

However, spokeswoman Avital Leibovich confirmed that incursions still remained a possibility.

"We are getting ready for an option of ground operation. It's not decided yet but it's an option we're considering at this point," she said.

"Some troops were asked to approach specific areas surrounding the Gaza Strip. Some are already there, some are on their way."

In the southern part of Tel Aviv, journalists were shown around the emergency control room for the municipality, located in an underground shelter.

It is set up like a military command centre with maps on the walls and a long table positioned in front of projector screens and televisions. It would act as a back-up for city hall if the security situation demanded it.

The mayor, Ron Huldai, said that residents had already adjusted well to the changed safety information and the use of sirens.

"People in the city of Tel Aviv know how to behave," he said. "The solution is to find your way to the safest place in your area and there are instructions in the newspaper with the rules you have to follow.

"They're taking this seriously but not changing their routine. We are prepared."