By JP SORIANO, GMA Integrated News
Overseas Filipino workers in Tel Aviv woke up on Saturday to sirens and earth-shaking explosions caused by the rockets shot into Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
GMA Integrated News was interviewing hotel staff Rica, Qunnie, Rosi, and Yham when another series of air attacks rocked Hersliya around 8:30 p.m. (1:30 a.m. Philippine time).
“Ayan na naman. Mga rockets. Ayun po yung mga parang star na po iyon. Nakikita n’yo po yung mga parang fireworks? ‘Yun po ‘yun,” one of them said as they showed the rockets appearing in the night sky.
“Pupunta po talaga kami ng shelter,” she said before the cellphone camera showed the retreat to the hotel shelter.
(There they are again. Those rockets. Those that look like stars. Do you see what looks like fireworks? We’re going to the shelter.)
In the video on their way to the shelter, one can hear sirens, screams, and loud blasts.
Rosi said she and her fellow OFWs woke up around 6 a.m. to sirens before realizing the seriousness of the rocket attack.
“N’ung una akala po naming normal hanggang sa ‘yung kapitbahay po naming naga-alarma na rin siya. Kaya nakiramdam na rin po kami,” Rosi said.
“Sunud-sunod po talaga yug pag-atake dito sa Tel Aviv. Bandang 11 po nag-stop,” she added.
(We first thought it was norman until our neighbor also started to sound the alarm. We started to be on the lookout. The attacks here in Tel Aviv were continuous. It was around 11 when it stopped.)
Caught by surprise, Rica said one of their housemates in the apartment stopped her bath and went to the shelter with her towel wrapped around her.
“Nabilinan lang kami na magpunta lang sa shelter sa apartment namin. Akala po namin simpleng rocket lang pero ang lakas po ng pagsabog. Sa Tel Aviv po kasi kami,” Rica said.
(We’ve been told to just go to the shelter of our apartment. We thought it was just a simple rocket but the explosion was really loud. We live in Tel Aviv.)
Shelters in apartment buildings were made of metal that wouldn’t easily be damaged in cases of attacks.
After the initial round of rockets, the OFWs said they learned from the news that gunmen had already made their way across the border.
“May mga Pilipinino na nagta-translate ng balita. So pinanood po naming ‘yung mga live nila. Hindi lang pala rocket, may mga terorista rin na namamaril sa daan, lahat ng makita,” Rica said.
(There are Filipinos who translate the news. So we watched them live. It was not just rockets. Some gunmen were shooting those that they saw.)
Barrage of rockets
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years on Saturday, killing more than 20 people in a surprise assault that combined gunmen penetrating Israeli towns with a barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
Israel said the Iran-backed group had declared war as its army confirmed fighting with militants in several Israeli towns and military bases near Gaza and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to retaliate.
“Our enemy will pay a price the type of which it has never known,” he said. “We are in a war and we will win it.”
At least 22 Israelis were killed in the attack so far with more than 250 wounded, Israel’s ambulance service said, but added that the toll was expected to rise.
The Israeli military said it had launched air strikes into Gaza, where witnesses reported hearing heavy explosions, with at least two dead.
The attack marked an unprecedented infiltration by an unknown number of Hamas gunmen into Israel from Gaza and one of the most serious escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years.
Israeli broadcaster Reshet 13 TV News said militants were holding Israelis hostage in the town of Ofakim, and that five Palestinian militants had been killed in the town of Sderot and homes had been set on fire.
Israeli media reported gunbattles between bands of Palestinian fighters and security forces in towns in southern Israel. Israel’s police chief said there were “21 active scenes” in southern Israel, indicating the extent of the attack.
In Gaza, people rushed to buy supplies in anticipation of days of conflict ahead. Some evacuated their homes and headed for shelters.
Hamas military commander Mohammad Deif announced the start of the operation in a broadcast on Hamas media, calling on Palestinians everywhere to fight.
“This is the day of the greatest battle to end the last occupation on earth,” he said, adding that 5,000 rockets had been launched.
The last major flare-up between Israel and Hamas was a 10-day war in 2021. —with Reuters/NB, GMA Integrated News