UPDATE 8 am and TODAY’S BLOG:
Let your humble servant put what happened at 5:35 am this morning at our house in context for you.
Here in Ashdod, about 45 km north of Gaza, we live with constant noise in the air overhead. All night, every night, the low buzz of drones circling in the airspace between Ashdod and Gaza permeate the atmosphere. They lend a constant accompaniment to the heavy roar of what appear to be Israeli bombers also constantly flying in long looping patterns between Ashdod and areas further north and south.
Several times a day, groups of F-15s and F-16s take off from a nearby air force base. They almost always travel in groups of two or four. They make a distinctive ripping noise in the air as they screech over our house. Sometimes they turn left for Gaza; sometimes they go straight out over the Mediterranean; and at other times they veer northward toward Tel Aviv and on to the Lebanese border.
Even more than this we have the clockwork exchanges of whirring Cobra helicopters from bases in the south with the base at Palmahim, and the old coastwatch plane that lumbers along up and down the coast every morning at about 5 am and afternoon at about 6 pm. Finally, there are the regularly scheduled flights from Eilat that fly northward up the coast toward Tel Aviv at various intervals during the day.
The funny thing about all of this air traffic is that one becomes inured to it–so much so that anything out of the ordinary is suddenly and obviously apparent.
And so it was this morning when your humble servant almost fell out of bed at 5:35 am when a group of F-16s made an especially low pass over the house on their way south toward Gaza.
We knew that something was up.
It turns out that three minutes earlier at 5:32 am, Hamas had launched a volley of rockets at Ashkelon (8 km south of here) which struck around the city. Fortunately no physical injuries have been reported yet, but who knows what emotional trauma was caused to the families in the area?
You may recall that this blog reported yesterday that two rockets had also struck–one near the Kerem Shalom crossing, and the other in the Chof Ashkelon region (where one struck this morning). The IDF was quick to point out that the rockets were “a false alarm” even though residents of both areas reported explosions from missile impacts.
This morning, the IDF’s first response was to say that the missiles never made it out of Gaza and exploded on the Gaza side of the Border fence. Tell that to the residents of Ashkelon. Or to we in Ashdod who heard the F-16 flyovers from 5:35 am until 7 am.
As the missile fire from Palestinian Islamist Hamas begins to crank up again in earnest, we in the south are all too aware of the sequence of IDF excuses:
1. The sirens were a false alarm.
2. The Palestinian missiles hit in Gaza.
3. Hamas is not responsible–it is doing everything it can to control the situation and to stop the “bad groups” from firing at southern Israel.
4. The missiles are just hitting “open areas” so no real response is needed.
The list goes on and on. While Benny Gantz and the rest of the IDF upper echelon are hobnobbing with “celebrities” at the galas for Shimon Peres, southern Israel is under attack again.
By the way, what were those F-16s doing this morning? Actually nothing–except doing flyovers of the launch sites. After all, this is southern Israel where no one cares if children, women, and men have to run to their bomb shelters or not.