As tensions between Israel and Gaza escalate, Palestinian militants have pounded Israel with hundreds of rockets in recent days, forcing residents across the country to take temporary refuge in bomb shelters. Many Israelis have taken to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to relay their experiences inside the shelters.
Sara Eisen, a resident of Beit Shemesh in central Israel, even started a Facebook page called "Bomb Shelter Selfies."
“There’s a selfie for everything so I figured why not bomb shelters?," Eisen told the newspaper Haaretz. "It was a way of showing the world that we weren’t letting this get to us,” she added.
The selfies document the stress many Israelis face under the rocket barrage, the efforts of parents to put their worried children at ease, and the camaraderie and resilience of civilians under pressure. As Haaretz notes, social media has been a way for Israelis to find "helpful hints, levity, and most of all, a way to come together in the isolation of a safe room or bomb shelter."
Yet the images also highlight a stark contrast. As The WorldPost reporter Sophia Jones explains from Gaza, where Israel has bombed more than a thousand targets since the beginning of the week: "There are no bomb shelter selfies here, as there are no bomb shelters. And no sirens for that matter."
At least 135 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes since Monday, many of them civilians. More than 920 Gaza residents have been injured. A Haifa woman who suffered from a heart attack while running to a bomb shelter has been the sole casualty on the Israeli side so far, the New York Times reports.
The low Israeli casualty rate is partly attributable to its missile defense system, Iron Dome, which recognizes the trajectory of incoming rockets and shoots them down if they are headed for population centers. The system destroyed dozens of projectiles fired from Gaza in recent days.
Israel has made efforts to limit casualties in the Gaza strip by alerting residents of some targeted buildings before an imminent strike. It argues that militants are using the civilian population as "human shields. However, as Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem explained to the AP, Palestinians civilians have been killed when homes of Hamas militants were targeted or when residents were unable to leave their homes quickly enough after an Israeli warning. Palestinian civilians remain extremely vulnerable during the strikes, lacking the dedicated shelters of many Israeli cities.