Israel Reports Hamas Rocket Strikes Near Tel Aviv

The Israeli air offensive in Gaza has prompted a new wave of Hamas rocket and mortar fire on communities in southern Israel. Three Israelis were killed in Kiryat Malachi this morning. Sheera Frenkel was on the scene shortly after the attack.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We're going to follow those Palestinian rockets that Anthony was talking about from Gaza into the fields, streets and homes of Israel. Israeli police have confirmed that rockets hit central Israel today, close to Tel Aviv, for the first time. Sheera Frenkel reports from one southern city where three civilians were killed today in their apartment.

SHEERA FRENKEL, BYLINE: Outside the apartment building in Kiryat Malachi, where two men and woman were killed today, family members held each other and cried. The rocket that hit this morning caught everyone by surprise, even though it came amid a volley of more than 150 rockets fired by militants in Gaza over the last 24 hours. It was the first to hit a populated civilian area.

Inside the apartment, blood smeared the walls and beds where the three people killed had been sitting when the rocket struck. I'm standing right now inside one of the apartments that was hit by a rocket earlier today. There's shattered glass and bits of rubble all over the floor. There's still pots on the stove from where they were fixing breakfast. On the countertop is bread, jam and butter, clearly left over from their meal earlier in the day.

Neighbors gathered downstairs said they only had seconds from when the warning siren went off to run from their homes to reinforced stairwell. Yurafan Simon(ph) used to live in the apartment opposite the one hit. He moved out just a few months ago because he felt an apartment facing directly towards the Gaza Strip would be unsafe.

YURAFAN SIMON: 15 years I grow up in this apartment. I know those persons. We are like family.

FRENKEL: Simon says it's the kind of community where everyone knows everyone. The names of those killed have not yet been made public to give time for the police to notify their families. As he speaks, as Israeli jet roars overhead.

SIMON: It's a good night (unintelligible).

FRENKEL: Why?

SIMON: Why? Because I know somebody gonna protect us.

FRENKEL: He, like many here, urges ever harsher action by the Israeli military against the militants in Gaza.

SIMON: I think they should go in, kick their ass. We got no choice. Sometimes you got few months quiet and then - but all the time there is a little things on your mind tell you maybe at this moment will be sirens, you know. You can't live like that.

FRENKEL: As news broke Wednesday evening that Hamas rockets had hit the southern suburbs of Tel Aviv for the first time, many Israelis called for a ground incursion into Gaza. Late today, Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, called up some 30,000 army reservists. Israeli politicians took to television and radio stations to calm the public. Avi Dichter, an Israeli politician and former head of the Shin Bet, the internal security service, visited the apartment hit in Kiryat Malachi and tried to reassure residents there.

AVI DICHTER: Well, the picture you can see inside the two apartments...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking foreign language)

FRENKEL: The woman heckling him lives opposite the apartment that was hit. She's saying that politicians only come out when cameras are there to film them. She accuses him and other Israeli politicians of starting the current operation in Gaza to bolster their chances ahead of the upcoming Israeli parliamentary elections.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking foreign language)

FRENKEL: Where were you during the last three years of rocket fire, she asks Dichter, then she adds, why do we keep going through this same cycle again and again? For NPR News, I'm Sheera Frenkel on the Israeli/Gaza border.

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