* First rockets to hit city area in 20 years
* Residents not fazed by two blasts with no casualties
* 'Back to business' mindset keeps city cool
By Douglas Hamilton
TEL AVIV, Nov 16 Pleasure-loving, wheeler-dealer
Tel Aviv withstood Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles 20 years ago
and Palestinian suicide bomb attacks a decade later.
The latest threat - Palestinian rockets from the Gaza Strip
- is something new, but in a sense familiar.
Some in the throbbing metropolis strung out along on
Israel's sandy Mediterranean shores kept their cool on Friday,
after sirens wailed and another explosion was heard, the second
in 24 hours. No one was hurt.
Israel was throttling back for the sleepy sabbath weekend,
and the freeways were humming with homebound traffic. About 40
percent of Israelis, more than three million people, live and
work in Tel Aviv and the urban sprawl around it.
A surfing initiation class was out, practising paddling in
slack water as girls in cutoffs and flip-flops got out of the
way of muscled guys on mountain bikes on the crowded cycle path.
The distant high-altitude rumble of warplanes mixed with the
breeze from the sea as the sun sank beneath the horizon.
"Israelis are very cool. We're used to living with this sort
of stuff," said Federico Broedner of Freddy's Havana cigar shop
in the heart of the city not far from the U.S. embassy - the
seashore five-star hotel belt.
"People are glad they (the military) are doing something
about it (the rocket threat from Gaza)," he said.
"My local customers are cool but the foreigners are worried.
One man had a panic attack and ran out of the shop when we heard
In fact, some residents on Thursday and Friday were either
too laid-back to care or not awake yet to the fact that this was
not a drill, that the Palestinian rocketeers of Gaza finally
have the city in their range, if not their sights.
Palestinians, and even many Israelis, believe some Tel Aviv
residents are blind to the realities of the conflict.
In Gaza, at least 14 Palestinian civilians have been killed
by Israeli strikes since the conflict escalated on Wednesday.
Three Israeli civilians were killed by a rocket attack on
Thursday in a town well to the south of Tel Aviv, where
rocketing has become commonplace.
"A WEEK OR TEN DAYS"
Thousands of rockets have been fired at southern Israel
since Hamas took over the enclave in 2007. Israel invaded Gaza
in the winter of 2008-2009 to stop the rocket fire, a war in
which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Rocketing
stopped for a few years but resumed again in 2012.
This is the first time that Islamist Hamas militants in Gaza
have fired rockets with sufficient range to reach Tel Aviv and
its outlying dormitory cities. None of the gleaming office
towers that reflect the setting sun has been scratched.
Hamas, which also targeted Jerusalem on Friday, is gambling
with a game-changing move.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the militants would
be made to pay. A lethal strike on Tel Aviv would probably
trigger an Israeli invasion.
Tel Aviv residents who remember the Gulf War 20 years ago
say the rockets still seem less dangerous than Saddam's Scuds,
when Israelis wore gas masks in case the Iraqi leader topped his
missiles with chemical warheads.
A nationwide early-warning system alerts Israelis to
incoming rockets. Homes and offices have blast-proof rooms to
retreat to within 30 seconds of the wail of sirens.
Those caught outside lie flat on the ground. Drivers get out
of their cars and crouch or lie by the roadside until they hear
an impact or an all-clear.
The new "Iron Dome" interceptor system is successfully
tracking launches from Gaza and knocking out many of those
rockets that look as if they might hit residential areas.
"Tel Aviv is on a normal footing. You can go to the beach,
or to the movies," a spokesman for the military's civil defence
command said on Israeli television after the latest rocket
attack on the city. "After an explosion is heard, you can get
back to normal 10 minutes later."