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Rocket sirens pierce the Tel Aviv 'bubble'

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Oded Balilty/AP

(Read caption) Israelis take cover as an air raid siren warns of incoming rockets from Gaza, next to an Iron Dome defense system in Tel Aviv, Saturday. Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with nearly 200 airstrikes early Saturday, the military said, widening a blistering assault on Gaza rocket operations to include the prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels.

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Israel’s cosmopolitan capital has developed a reputation over the past decade for residents leading lives removed from the rest of Israel and the Middle East, but this weekend's rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip have burst the infamous Tel Aviv bubble.

Video footage showing bathers sprinting from a hotel beach on Saturday with rocket intercepts overhead served as a jarring contrast to the city’s image as a destination for carefree pleasure seekers. On Sunday, Tel Aviv was targeted by two separate rocket salvos, though all of them were shot down.

Not only does Tel Aviv symbolize Israel’s capital city for business and culture, it’s also a city that symbolizes efforts by Israelis to maintain a sense of normalcy despite the daily feuding of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But now the new normal in Tel Aviv includes the opening of municipal bomb shelters to the public.

"People here hold up the banner of freedom," says Motti Haimovich, the owner of a French bakery in central Tel Aviv. "When there are rockets, then there isn't any freedom."

On the morning after the first siren last Thursday evening, weekend café goers at the Le Moulin bakery showed for their usual coffee and croissant to check in with one another, says owner Motti Haimovich. But when a siren sounded at the height of the midday rush on Friday, the café emptied quickly.


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