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Relatives of people taken hostage by Hamas militants hold the pictures of their loved ones during a protest in Tel Aviv. Image Credit: AP

TEL AVIV: Hamas rockets fell on Tel Aviv during the October 7 attacks, and alert sirens still send residents rushing to shelters daily — and the strain on Israel’s commercial hub is starting to show.

Runners and cyclists still exercise in the sun on Tel Aviv’s seafront promenade and in its parks. But back at home, some are boarding up their windows or getting armed.

“I’ve never felt this vulnerable,” said Ravit Stein, a 50-year-old insurance agent who was walking her dog in the city centre.

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“After that terrible attack, the idea that they could do it again here won’t leave me. So I try to do normal things, like walk my dog,” she said.

Tel Aviv is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of the Gaza Strip, well within the range of rockets launched by armed groups in the blockaded enclave.

Several rockets hit the Tel Aviv area when Hamas militants launched the most deadly attack suffered by Israel since its creation, with some 1,400 killed - most of them civilians - according to Israeli officials.

Israel has since launched a relentless bombing of Gaza which has left more than 4,600 dead, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.

Sirens have wailed across the city several times a day to warn the population of about 450,000 that a rocket was again heading in their direction. Explosions can be heard when they are intercepted.

Ofer Kaddosh, an IT professional, said “we have lost confidence” in Israel’s security agencies.

“It will take time to restore that confidence,” said the 46-year-old, sweating after a run on an unusually empty beachfront on Saturday, the Jewish day of rest.

“In the meantime, I’m going to buy a gun.”

Authorities have approved new regulations to arm civilians and said that in the fortnight since October 7, some 41,000 Israelis have applied for a firearms licence compared to a usual figure of 38,000 annually.

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A view shows an installation of fresh flowers created by Tel Aviv florists to show support for Israel, following a deadly infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv. Image Credit: Reuters

Unfamiliar fear

French-Israeli Michel Haddad, 63, said he hadn’t seen that much fear around him since moving to Tel Aviv in the 1980s.

“I never thought that one day, someone in my family would consider buying a gun to protect themselves,” said Haddad.

He said that since the attack, his daughter sleeps with two knives and a baseball bat on her bedside table, and that she has not stopped checking that her front door is properly locked.

“I don’t believe it will reach the point” of attacks on homes in Tel Aviv, said a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Still, unsubstantiated rumours of further attacks inside Israel circulate.

They have spread so much that the police and army spokesman Daniel Hagari have urged the public not to believe everything they see on social media.

Hagari nevertheless told a recent press briefing: “We do ask Israeli citizens to informs us of anyone behaving suspiciously.”

Despite the call for calm, some residents have boarded up their homes.

The attacks have also led some among Israel’s Jewish majority to grow more suspicious of members of the long marginalised Arab minority.

Menachem Har Tzion, a man in his 60s riding a mountain bike, claimed that “the massacre... has boosted the confidence of our Arab neighbours,” pointing towards Jaffa, a historically Palestinian city which was merged with Tel Aviv after Israel’s creation in 1948 and still has a significant Arab population.

While fear may be rising among Israeli Jews, no serious incidents involving members of Israel’s Arab minority - approximately one-fifth of the country’s population - have been reported since the start of the war.

Arab-Israelis, many of whom identify as Palestinians, were among the victims of the October 7 attacks in Israel.