Ofra Cohen, whose home in Ashkelon suffered a direct rocket hit that left a gaping hole in the roof and two rooms completely destroyed, feels like she got a second chance. "Our lives are a gift," she said on Tuesday, after she and her family came out of the wreckage with only a few cuts.
The family members were on their way to the safe-room when the Code Red siren was sounded and the rocket hit. The rocket left the bedroom and living room in ruins, and it was only thanks to a stroke of luck that the family was relatively unharmed.
A total of 28 people were wounded in no less than 50 neighboring apartments in 12 surrounding buildings that were damaged as a result of the rocket hit.
"I left the room and went to wake up the kids so they would run to the safe-room, and all of a sudden there was an explosion and everything went dark," Ofra said. "The entire house was ruined. I don't even want to think what would've happened if had we stayed in the bedroom. I can't believe the house is ruined. We've been living here for only ten years and the house was as good as new."
She went on to say the explosion was "indescribable."
Ofra has two children, 17 and 14 years old. Naor, the younger son, said: "I was sleeping in my room and the siren didn't wake me up. Suddenly, mom and dad came in to wake us up so we would go to the safe-room, and then there was a big explosion and fire. Shrapnel flew everywhere, everything suddenly collapsed. We were never in a situation like that, I still can't believe what happened to us here."
War going on 'for too many days'
Nine-year-old Liam Atizon was among those lightly wounded. "I was sleeping in my bed, there was a siren, Mom woke me up," he said. "We don't have a safe-room in our apartment so we ran to the stairwell and then there was a loud boom. The whole building shook, glass shattered and one hit my face. Luckily it only left a small cut in my cheek."
Liam and his family then noticed the ruin in the neighboring house. "All of the windows and shatters blew out the buildings. My Mom was also hurt, she was taken away in an ambulance. Thanks to her, I got to ride in an ambulance to the hospital for the first time. It was only me and Mom at home, I was really scared."
Liam said his family moved to that apartment just recently. "Out of the three months we've been living here, we've been at war for two months. The security situation is not really good, it's been going on for too many days. I was born in Ashkelon, I grew up here, I'm nine already and this situation goes on all the time. It doesn't make sense that we've been living like that all this time."
'Like a neighborhood gathering'The ER at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon was crowded on Tuesday morning as dozens of wounded arrived after the rocket attack.
One of the residents even joked: "This is like a neighborhood gathering, the woman from the first floor is meeting the one from then third floor and that one is meeting her neighbor from the building next door. We can hold a building committee meeting here."
Avital Denis, 68, who was suffering from anxiety, said that after the numerous sirens, she decided to go spend the night at her daughter's place.
"My husband stayed in our home and because I was afraid, I went to sleep at my daughter's home. I slept well all night, but this morning I didn't even make it out of bed and the siren went off. We ran with the three grandkids to the stairwell, there was complete chaos - children screaming, some falling down the stairs."
Clementine Nakesh, 92, who was moderately wounded, made Aliyah from France because of the rising anti-Semitism in her country of birth. This morning, when the siren went off, she tried to get to the safe-room in her son's house, but fell and broke her pelvis.
Her son, David Lalum, said: "Mother was sleeping in the safe-room, got up to go to the bathroom and on her way back the siren went off. She panicked, fell and got hurt."
Despite her injury, her son says it's "safer for her here than in France, it's more dangerous there."
Many Ashkelon residents accosted Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich during his visit to the house that was hit on Tuesday.
"It can't be that half of the country is paralyzed and the government is doing nothing, how long do we have to suffer?" one of the residents asked the minister. "We have the strongest army in the world and we can't defeat Hamas and eliminate it. We have to wipe Gaza off (the map)."
Ronit Abutbul, another city resident, told the minister: "We endure, the government remains silent, and it's a disgrace. I want to see what would've happened if the rocket had fallen on the Knesset. We can't take this anymore."
Eli Zaguri was just leaving his home when the rocket hit. "I don't understand why we're waiting for someone to get killed," he said in anger. "The kids are spending their entire summer vacation in safe-rooms. We can't carry on like that. The government's too complacent. We either have a war and get it over and done with or we don't. If you can't do that, give the keys to someone else."