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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Israelis recount worry, fear after night of Iran missile interceptions

By Louisa Loveluck, Heidi Levine and Sufian Taha Washington Post

JERUSALEM – For some Israelis, it was a sleepless night, waiting for an attack by Iran and then fretting about what might follow. For others, the drones and missiles slipped past without notice – the interceptions by Israel and allied militaries giving families a protective shield as they slept.

“Dramatic Night,” read the headline of Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper. “The Iranian Attack and the Israeli Defense.”

In Jerusalem, a city rarely troubled by aerial attacks, the sounds of the interceptions rolled through like thunder. Air raid sirens wailed; people gathered on balconies, or pressed their faces to the windows, as fireballs lit up the sky.

Streets were quiet Sunday morning. Shopkeepers said that some people had been in to buy stockpiles of food and water. “It was terrifying. Terrifying,” said Mari James, 27, as she left a store with bulging carrier bags. “I think I’m doing this to soothe myself,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Israeli leaders had spent days foreshadowing the likelihood of an Iranian attack, following Israel’s April 1 targeting of two Iranian generals in the Syrian capital, Damascus. On Thursday, the military jammed GPS signals over parts of Tel Aviv without warning, causing havoc on the roads as Google Maps and Waze suddenly placed drivers in Cairo or Beirut.

By Friday, rumors of an imminent strike swirled around an anxious nation.

In the Silwan district of East Jerusalem, Abu Karam, 45, said it felt like the whole neighborhood stepped outside to watch the attacks early Sunday. “Everybody was up,” he said.

“You cannot watch the sky appear on fire and not be afraid,” he added. “What do you tell your children? They can’t understand what is happening.”

Israel’s Home Front Command, a branch of the Israel Defense Forces responsible for emergency preparedness, said Sunday that Israelis no longer needed to stay near protected rooms or shelters. But it left in place restrictions on large gatherings and a ban on educational activities such as school trips.

Almost all of the drones and ballistic and cruise missiles sent by Iran were intercepted, said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesman.

One of the few that did fall inside Israeli territory, however, appeared to have grievously wounded one of the nation’s most vulnerable: 7-year-old Amina Hassouna, from Israel’s long-neglected Bedouin community. She sustained a shrapnel wound to the head, according to Magen David Adom , Israel’s national emergency service.

Reached by phone on Sunday, a friend of Amina’s father, Farhan Daabouh, said she was still in a critical condition.

Because Israel doesn’t recognize many Bedouin villages, the communities are often forbidden from building permanent structures, leaving them with little hard cover in the event of aerial attacks.

“We are the Bedouin, we have no shelter to go to,” Daabouh said. “The state of Israel, since we are its citizens, should provide us with all measures of security, but they don’t.”

Elsewhere in Israel, MDA EMTs and paramedics treated 31 people in mild condition with anxiety symptoms or injuries caused while seeking shelter, the organization said.

Some Israelis said they had invited friends over once news of an impending attack broke, preferring the company of loved ones to doom-scrolling. Many, however, slept through the night – some because they did not check the news before going to bed, others because they said they felt they had no control over the outcome anyway.

In the ancient port city of Jaffa, 44-year-old Anastasia, a mother of three originally from Russia, said that she had put her cellphone away for the night before she put her daughter to bed with a story.

“It was only today that I read a lot of people didn’t sleep all night,” she said, declining to give her surname to protect family back in Russia.

That same family was the first to message, saying they had read the news and wanted to know if she was safe.

“It doesn’t help anyway to read the news,” she said. “Once you wake up in the morning and see that the sun is shining, you know that it is better to just continue with your life.”

Outside, the sound of Israeli fighter jets and reconnaissance drones mingled with the sounds of birdsong, as fishing boats carved trails through the blue sea.

Shaily Niv, 48, a therapist at a nearby hospital, described the overnight attacks as just the latest in a series of troubling developments in Israel that have made her feel like she is no longer in control.

“We can’t do anything. I find it impossible to listen to the news and coordinate my life along with it, so I just don’t,” she said. She had opened up her phone Saturday night to see panic online, and swiftly closed it again.

“With this government,” she said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing cabinet, “I expect the worst things one can expect.”