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Even with rocket-busting 'Iron Dome' for protection, fear hits home in Israel

By Tricia Escobedo and Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
updated 4:33 PM EST, Tue November 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel-Gaza conflict has created widespread fear across the Jewish state
  • Israeli family in Ashkelon has moved three kids into grandparents' apartment
  • Rocket fire can be seen, heard as far away as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
  • 'Iron Dome' shield has busted half of incoming rockets so far

CNN has multiple crews in Gaza, Israel and neighboring countries to bring you the latest accurate information on the conflict, the impact on people and talks to stop the violence. Turn to CNN TV and CNN.com for what you need to know now.

Ashkelon, Israel (CNN) -- It's become a daily routine for Israelis living near Gaza: a casual conversation interrupted by an air-raid siren, then a furious rush to find cover, and finally -- if all goes well -- a flash in the sky indicating an incoming rocket has been intercepted.

While Israelis are protected by the relatively new Iron Dome missile interceptor system, it hasn't abated the fear that one of the dozens of rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israel in recent days will strike nearby.

More details on Iron Dome

Schools and businesses in southern Israel near the Palestinian territory of Gaza are closed, as Hamas militants and the Israeli military mull their next move.

A boy stands in the rubble of a destroyed shop in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, on Monday, November 26. A boy stands in the rubble of a destroyed shop in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, on Monday, November 26.
Israel-Gaza conflict
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Photos: Israel-Gaza conflict Photos: Israel-Gaza conflict

Just a few miles from Gaza in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon -- which has been repeatedly targeted by militants in recent days -- Effie and Andi Moradian decided to move their family into their parents' apartment building to protect their three kids from incoming rocket strikes.

"It (has) a safe room, it's got thicker walls and it's more or less blast resistant," explained Effie Moradian.

His two daughters pass the time on their grandparents' sofa, reading books and drawing flowers and colorful butterflies. The monotony is constantly interrupted by the sound of explosions outside. Effie Moradian says it's unclear if the rocket landed or if it was intercepted.

Victims in Gaza too young to understand

Either way, the fear is the same.

"It's really frightening especially when we're in school and hear a 'boom' and there's bombing," said 11-year-old Shiraz Moradian.

Wedged between a crowded bookcase and the metal door to the apartment's small safe room is pile of cushions and blankets heaped on the floor. That's where all three children will sleep for the foreseeable future.

The Moradians, like many other Israeli families, are taking no chances that their family will be protected by the Iron Dome -- which has shot down approximately half of the nearly 600 rockets that have struck Israel since the conflict began Wednesday.

"We can't go on like this," said Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, who drives the streets of his city checking on residents. "We have 131,000 people here and 26,000 children. They are constantly under threat."

Rafel Moshe, who was playing backgammon at a pizza place downtown, echoed the mayor's thoughts.

"They don't want peace," said Moshe, speaking of the people in Gaza. "How would you feel if your children were constantly scared?"

The city's residents have experience dealing with how to quickly move to air raid shelters and some, like Moshe, have a "Red Alert" app for their smart phones that tracks rocket attacks.

Israel and Hamas: How the conflict reignited

"We don't want war but there are people all the time shooting at Israel and we are quiet -- we stay quiet -- and the world doesn't see the truth," Moshe said.

And it's not just in southern Israel where nerves are frayed. In Jersualem -- some 50 miles away from Gaza -- sirens went off on a calm Friday evening, startling James Cheatham who sent video to iReport. Cheatham said people ran for safety -- most apartments in Jerusalem are equipped with bomb shelters -- and later, the distant sound of a rocket exploding could be heard.

"You feel very vulnerable and you're really not sure where to go, because you don't know where they will land," he told CNN. "I'm a Christian, so we do a lot of praying."

In Israel's second most populous city, Tel Aviv, life was relatively normal last week as explosions could be heard from the current conflict.

"Tel Aviv is quite in a routine mode. There's no panic, but the streets are half empty," explained Shachar Laudon, who submitted photos to iReport. "Many are in their homes. There is tension over the city and many are confused.

"Many still don't know what to do in case of an attack."

Frederik Pleitgen reported from Ashkelon and Tricia Escobedo from Atlanta.

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