This is how Israel protects its citizens from rocket attacks

New DelhiEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: May 19, 2021, 02:03 PM IST


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When an Israeli hears a siren, he or she has a minute to rush to a 'Mamad' or safe room

Videos of rockets raining on Israel often have blaring sound of sirens in the background. These sirens are part of Israel's air raid siren system. Alarms go off every time a rocket from Gaza is fired towards Israel. 

These alarms are placed across the country. Some go off automatically, some are manually controlled. Every time an Israeli hears a siren, he or she is expected to follow certain protocols. This includes rushing to safe rooms and bomb shelters.


Israel is bombarding the Gaza strip. And Hamas is raining rockets into Israel. 

Israel's air sirens are unusual, but not unique. Most towns worldover had similar air raid sirens. During World War II, these alarms warned of approaching enemy bombers. 

In fact, it was the British who introduced the alarm system in this region. It was then called Palestine and was under British rule. Post-1948, the alarm system was expanded by the newborn state of Israel. The alarms were upgraded as recently as 2019.

Israelis call these sirens 'Azaka'. It means alarm.

When an Israeli hears a siren, he or she has a minute to rush to a 'Mamad' or safe room. The siren stops blaring after the incoming rocket is intercepted. But residents are expected to stay in safe rooms for another couple of minutes. This is to avoid being hit by falling shrapnel. After the window period lapses, they can get back to what they were doing.

What if an alarm goes off when an Israeli citizen is outdoors? He or she must run to a nearby building. If that's not an option then the person has to lie down on the ground and cover their heads with hands.

If the siren goes off when a person is driving, Israelis are expected to pull over, leave the car, and rush to a shelter.

When a train pilot hears a siren, the train slows down to 30 miles per hour. And passengers are expected to bend their head and cover it with their hands.

Today, Israel uses a multi-touchpoint siren system. The warning is simultaneously broadcast over TV, the radio, and apps. Mobile applications provide real-time alerts, and information about the nature and location of the siren.

Our correspondent in Israel ran us through one such app while taking refuge in a safe room following a siren. 

Today, safe rooms are mandatory in every building in Israel. But in Gaza, there is no such rule. There is nowhere people can run. There are also no air raid sirens, or safe houses.

Gaza is tiny with just 365 square kilometres of area. It has population of 2 million people. This strip is one of the world's most densely populated. And every time a bomb drops on Gaza, it risks every soul living there.