TEL AVIV, Israel (WHNT)-Warning sirens and the sound of explosions are now a daily routine for millions of people living in Israel, including one man from north Alabama.
Huntsville native Blake Zelickson is a medical student at Tel Aviv University, and talked candidly about the current crisis in a Skype interview with WHNT News 19 on Sunday. Zelickson said he had to run for cover after a rocket attack warning siren started going off while he was in class just hours earlier. Israeli military officials said the rocket was intercepted by the country's Iron Dome defense system, but Zelickson said that wasn't easing anyone's fears.
"Wherever I'm going, I'm looking to see where is a place to go if a siren goes off," said Zelickson, who graduated from Huntsville High School and still has family in the Rocket City. "The sirens went off when we were at school. In the middle of class we had to leave class...Basically, the rule is you wait until you hear the boom."
On Sunday alone, more than two dozen rockets were fired into Israel from the terrorist-controlled Gaza Strip, triggering frequent warning alerts on Israeli television and radio stations. Zelickson said life in Tel Aviv has been anything but normal since Hamas started taking aim at Israel's largest city last week. Before then, only towns in southern Israel were thought to be at risk, but improved missile capabilities by Hamas are now endangering a much greater portion of the country.
"Everyone has always felt really safe here because it's far enough away," said Zelickson. "But definitely when the first sirens went off Thursday night, it was a rude awakening for everyone here [Tel Aviv]. It's not a good feeling."
Zelickson enrolled in a medical program for Jewish-American students at Tel Aviv University after he graduated from UAB. He told us he's been talking with parents in Huntsville on a daily basis since the crisis heated up last week.
"They're definitely concerned," said Zelickson. "I think they're more concerned than they're letting on because they don't want me to worry about them worrying."
Thousands of Israeli troops and tanks have been massing near the country's border with Gaza, prompting talk of a possible ground invasion as soon as this week. Zelickson said he's noticed an uptick in soldier activity in Tel Aviv, and said the unwelcome scenario may be necessary to keep Israelis safe.
"I don't think there's any other option for Israel at this point," said Zelickson. "I mean, now that they're firing rockets at Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem, there's no way I think the country will alllow this to continue. It has to stop. Half the country is looking over their shoulder 24-7."