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Sleepless in Ashkelon as Missiles Fall

The universal fear of parents for their children is part of almost every conversation in Ashkelon and the other southern Israeli towns and cities in range of Gaza rockets.

In her apartment overlooking the Mediterranean from where she and her daughter watch Israeli helicopters fly south towards Gaza, Leah Hassan tries to pass the time indoors, relieved at least that for the day her two young granddaughters, aged two and three are safe. Their parents took them to Tel Aviv to spend the day at the zoo.

Her nerves are frayed she admits, but she is steadfast in her support of the Israeli action in Gaza, calling it a war.      

"I hope we'll be able to go back to the old days but right now we are in the middle and have to absorb these blows."        

For now, she does not dare to leave the relative safety of her apartment, which like most homes in the city has a protective room built with reinforced concrete that serves as their bomb shelter.        

Schools are closed as are malls and most stores and restaurants.        

The one store at a strip mall in the city that was open and doing fast business was a shwarma restaurant. Its workers were busy wrapping up sandwiches for the slew of home deliveries that had been ordered. But the counter was also jammed with those who came in for lunch. When a siren went off most paused only briefly and then continued eating.       

Sitting on a folding chair in the parking garage just off the kitchen, Shahar Ben-David, 30, was taking his own lunch break and assured a visitor that the garage was the safest place to be. He did not seem phased by the siren blasting once again or the rocket that had fallen in a soccer stadium across the road less than an hour earlier.                

"What will we do? Run away?" he asked, taking a bite of his shwarma. "I need to work, who else will support my family?"   

His wife and five-year-old daughter, meanwhile, were among those who had left the city, hoping to wait out the worst of the rocket fire from the safety of a Tel Aviv hotel.        

Waiting for her lunch order to be ready, Lee Baron, an 18-year-old high school senior said she was not thinking about leaving.     

"We cannot show fear because it will then give the other side strength," she said.