Sunny With a Chance of Rockets: No Casualties but Plenty of Confused Tourists in Tel Aviv

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Air-raid sirens in Tel Aviv are relatively rare, but not unheard of. But a major shopping mall shuttered in the middle of the week? As far as the security guards blocking shoppers from entering Dizengoff Center could recall, this was indeed a first.

– Haaretz Weekly 12/11

Haaretz WeeklyHaaretz

When pressed for explanation, a security guard who identified himself as “the boss” told local residents shaking their heads in disbelief that he was simply complying with orders from the military’s Home Front Command. He reassured them, though, that the plan was to begin opening stores soon, once there was a “green light” from the Israeli army.

At about 8 A.M. Tuesday, air-raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv, followed by explosions. A few hours earlier, Israel had assassinated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's commander in the Gaza Strip, Baha Abu al-Ata. The PIJ first responded by launching rocket attacks on Israeli communities located near the Gaza border. But by what would have been the start of the school day, it had already targeted the Greater Tel Aviv region.

– Hananya Naftali tweet

WATCH: At least 50 rockets were fired from #Gaza to #Israel this morning. Rocket sirens were heard in Tel Aviv.

Millions of Israelis were under attack today. Tell the world!

— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) November 12, 2019

It was the first time since March that air-raid sirens had sounded in Tel Aviv. That previous attack, undertaken by Hamas, was later said to have been a “mistake.” Israel’s business and cultural capital was frequently targeted by Hamas missiles during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, but that was during the summer months when children were off school.

A stroll through the streets of central of Tel Aviv early Tuesday morning revealed that this was clearly not a normal workday. Traffic was not as heavy as usual; the number of commuters passing through the turnstiles at the Hashalom train station — a major public transportation hub — was unusually low for this time of day; and there was none of the usual hustle-bustle in the streets.

The quiet streets around the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, November 12, 2019.Daniel Bar-On

Outside Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, November 12, 2019.דניאל בר-און

Walking up Kaplan Street, a main Tel Aviv thoroughfare where Israel’s military headquarters happen to be located, it felt almost like Shabbat.

At this hour of the morning on any other weekday, the bike racks at Ironi Alef High School — located in the heart of Tel Aviv’s cultural center — would be overflowing. But there was not a bicycle in sight on Tuesday morning. A security guard was manning his station outside the locked gates of the school, but looked bored.