As Iranian rockets and drones lit up the sky over Israel, the Middle East entered a dangerous new phase

As Iranian rockets and drones lit up the sky over Israel, the Middle East entered a dangerous new phase
  • PublishedApril 15, 2024

Up in the sky, dozens of bright orange balls flew in an arc through the darkness.

It almost looked like a cluster of shooting stars, except they were much more dangerous and serious.

They were rockets and drones fired at Israel by Iran.

For days I have been preparing myself, our ABC team here in Jerusalem, and my family, for an attack by Iran on Israeli soil.

This week, the United States warned Tehran was planning a “significant attack” in response to several Iranian military leaders being killed at the start of April in an air strike – believed to have been launched by Israel – on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria.

At the time, Iran vowed to seek revenge. The tension has been building across Israel ever since. 

Regular citizens were warned to stock up their emergency kits, including with a battery-operated radio and bottled water — in a similar way some Australians are warned to get emergency supplies ready during extreme weather.

Stores were stripped of supplies and everyone was on edge.

People were discussing what to do if an attack happened, or whether they should try to flee the country altogether. 

Days of tension and then bright lights in the sky 

The signs that Israeli authorities knew something was imminent started on Saturday local time.

Israel’s Home Front Command announced schools would be closed and educational activities banned for 48 hours. 

And then, just before 11pm on Saturday night, reports started filtering through that Iran had launched hundreds of unmanned drones and missiles towards Israel. 

It marked a serious escalation between the two longtime arch-enemies.

We were told by Israel’s military that we had a few hours until the first wave of drones and missiles made it into Israeli airspace, and that aerial capabilities, including the Iron Dome, and the Arrow, had been readied for defence.

A streak of orange fire in a dark night
Israel’s Iron Dome defence system appears to have intercepted many of the missiles and drones sent by Iran. (Reuters: Ronen Zvulun)

It was about three hours later when the first missiles started appearing in the sky above me.

Dressed in our personal protective equipment, ABC camera operator Haidarr Jones and I rushed onto my balcony to film.

Flashes of bright, orange light flew through the sky.

Some of them exploded before my eyes as they were intercepted by Israel’s defence array.

On my phone, I’m registered to receive security alert notifications — here we call them rocket alerts — that are put out by the government as a warning that something is entering Israeli airspace.

My phone was pinging non-stop in what felt like dozens of alerts within seconds.

And a moment later, those pings notified me of a threat right above me.

Rocket alarm sirens around my neighbourhood in Jerusalem started blaring, and I knew I had a few seconds to get to safety.

We ran from the balcony, collected my husband and daughter, and dashed into the bomb shelter inside our house.

I could hear the sonic booms as Israel’s defence systems shot down drones or missiles as they arced across Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, I prepared our bomb shelter with mattresses and water. 

As the room shook with each explosion and sirens continued to ring out, I tried to get my child back to sleep. 

Why the next 24 hours are critical 

The sirens stopped after about five minutes, so I moved back upstairs to the balcony and looked up.

Bright balls of light were still flying overhead, signifying the attack was ongoing.

From my balcony, I could hear the cheers of some Palestinians in East Jerusalem who were celebrating a response on Israel, which they felt was long overdue following six months of war in Gaza.

I watched from my balcony as they let off fireworks.

In October last year, Hamas-led militants stormed across the border into southern Israel, killing hundreds of civilians and taking 253 hostages back into Gaza. 

Israel’s government swiftly launched a retaliatory military campaign, which it said was aimed at eliminating Hamas from the coastal enclave. 

Since then, more than 33,000 people in Gaza have been killed, according to the local health ministry. 

It has been a tremendously long six months in this region, and as I looked around and continued my work, I wondered: What will the following days hold?

This is the first time that Iran has directly attacked Israel despite decades of a shadow war between the pair.

Israel has said it could use “unprecedented action” to respond, which is expected within the next 24 hours.

Iran has already warned it will be ready to retaliate again.

No-one knows what will happen here, but there is a lot of fear and anxiety.

The situation is threatening to spiral into an all-out war between Iran and its allies, and Israel and the United States.

It could change the Middle East as we know it.


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