I drove south the next day in search of the remnants of the latest round of violence in Israeli cities. A ceasefire had been declared a few days earlier, after 11 days in which 256 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel were killed. I had tracked down the names of streets where rockets fired by Hamas had fallen, but struggled to locate the impact sites. In some cases, Israeli flags hung over damage to hide it from onlookers. Other spots had already been repaired. I found a few damaged buildings in Ashkelon, where a stoned guard shook his head and clucked as he patiently pointed out every bit of destruction, no matter how small: a smoke-scorched door, some broken glass, a damaged fence. I continued on to Zikim Beach, which runs all the way to the Gaza border, and saw the Israelis frolicking in the surf and eating ice cream. Despite the idyllic scene, the signs of the ongoing blockade were omnipresent: a massive security wall stretching into the sea, watchtowers, soldiers on leave and a few beachgoers armed with M4 carbines. In the Israeli towns surrounding Gaza, concrete air raid shelters are almost always within a short sprint, although many also seemed like a place to throw trash or urinate.
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