Customers in a grocery store in Kiryat Malachi debated whether the hostilities would be over within a day or drag on into the weekend.
"This is something new here," says Angela Malaiyev, the store cashier. "We're used to hearing sirens, but not one after the other."
Hours earlier, two consecutive "Red Color" warning sirens went off in the town, located about 20 miles northeast of Gaza. Not far down the road from the supermarket in a hardscrabble Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, a rocket fired from Gaza at breakfast time slammed into the fourth floor of a nondescript apartment block, killing at least three residents and wounding a baby.
It was highest death toll from a rocket attack since Palestinian militants began firing homemade pipe bombs a decade ago, and it demonstrated the heightened potency of the Palestinian arsenal. The impact shook neighboring buildings, blew out the facade of an apartment balcony, and left the apartment walls scarred with shrapnel.
"There was a powerful explosion, and I realized it was a direct hit. Everything flew up in the air. It didn't reach us, thank God,'' says Nava Hayut, who was scurrying with her children two floors below to take cover in the stairwell. Ms. Hayut said one of those killed went to the window of the apartment to photograph the incoming missile. "There were shrieks. I took these kids back home to calm them down, and I began to recite psalms. I could barely hold the book.''