|By Raffi Berg |
BBC News, Haifa
Like most Haifans who have decided to stay in this missile-battered Israeli city, 48-year-old Ron Kehrmann has spent most of the past two weeks at home.
| Ron Kehrmann lost his daughter Tal in a suicide bombing|
Shops and businesses have closed, and after eight people were killed in a single missile strike last Sunday, Mr Kehrmann's only employee packed up and left.
"It's very, very difficult," he said, sitting in the living room of the apartment he shares with his wife, Yafit, and 14-year-old son, Dror, in the southern district of Savyone Hacarmel.
"You can hear the missiles fall. You can hear them get closer and closer - you count the number of missiles and just hope it won't be your turn to get hit."
|| If you had asked me two weeks ago where is my shelter, I would have smiled and said: 'Why need a shelter?' It shows how fragile the situation is and how rapidly things can change |
The barrage has evoked some uncomfortable memories for Mr Kehrmann, a third-generation printer, whose grandparents fled Germany for Palestine in 1934 amid a rising tide of anti-Semitism.
"I will never forget how, during the 1967 Six Day War, my grandmother took me from school and ran with me into a bomb shelter - I was eight years old and that was my first experience of war," he recalled.
In the years since, Mr Kehrmann has needed to resort to bomb shelters twice more - first during the 1991 Gulf War, and now, once again, during the bombardment of northern Israel by Hezbollah.
"If you had asked me two weeks ago where is my shelter, I would have smiled and said: 'Why need a shelter?' It shows how fragile the situation is and how rapidly things can change," he said.
In fact, the Kehrmanns have sought sanctuary in their shelter - a reinforced room off one of the apartment's three bedrooms - some two dozen times since the attacks began.
"One moment you can be having a peaceful conversation, then suddenly the siren sounds and everyone dashes into the shelter," said Mr Kehrmann.
| Air vents have to be covered in case of a chemical attack|
"In 1991, we had a five-minute warning, but now the sirens only give us 30 seconds to get into the room and shut the door."
Just 12m square, it is a tight squeeze for an average family - this one even more so, serving a dual purpose as a spare room for most of the time, with a desk, bookshelves and large, fitted wardrobe.
All 37 apartments in the nine-storey building contain identical reinforced rooms, each one built directly above the other, and - in theory - able to withstand massive impact.
The door - the only entrance and exit - is hefty and the concrete walls are 10 inches (25cm) thick.
The room is windowless, there is no air conditioning and occupants' combined body heat quickly sends the temperature inside rising.
There are two porthole-style air vents, but these have to be covered and bolted shut if there is a threat of a chemical attack, such as during the Gulf War when Scud missiles fell on Haifa.
"Now it's more intense than the Gulf War. People here are more scared now than they were then," said Mr Kehrmann. "It's more threatening this time because Saddam Hussein only had a few dozen missiles but Hezbollah have got 13,000 of them."
Back then, the Kehrmanns took refuge in the shelter as a family of four.
| The Kehrmanns had to don gas masks during the 1991 Gulf War|
But three years ago Mr Kehrmann's daughter, Tal, then 18 years old, was one of 17 people killed when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on board a bus in Haifa.
"She was killed by ball-bearings packed into the bomber's belt," said Ron, "the same type of ball-bearings which are now packed into the heads of the missiles."
Back in the living room, a memorial candle burns in front of a picture of Tal, the centrepiece of a small shrine dedicated to Mr Kehrmann's beloved daughter.
"Before Tal died, I used to say everything will be okay, but everything's not okay," he said.
"It makes you realise you should never take anything for granted. To lose your home, like people have in Haifa and in Lebanon, is terrible, but life, that is irreplaceable."
Haifa hospital is in firing line
The growing number of Israeli casualties - both military and civilian - is stretching Haifa's emergency services to their limit as the conflict with Hezbollah continues to rage across the Israel-Lebanon border.
Professor Lael-Anson Best fears a rocket will hit the hospital|
Nowhere is this felt more acutely than at the city's Rambam Medical Centre, where victims of missile attacks and wounded soldiers are beginning to populate the wards.
Since the clashes began, the hospital has also had to adjust to being in the firing line itself, a unique experience in its 98-year history.
"It's very difficult psychologically," said Professor Lael-Anson Best, the Indian-born head of thoracic surgery.
"It's the first time the home front has been attacked. Even during the  Yom Kippur War, Haifa was safe. But now we can be hit at the same rate as everyone else."
The hospital came close to disaster on Monday when a missile struck an apartment block just 500 metres away, and every new attack brings with it the threat of a direct hit.
"Even if Hezbollah say they're not deliberately targeting the hospital, they don't know where a rocket is going to land," said Prof Best. "There's no ethics of war out here."
Haifa Police Chief Cmdr Nir Mariash inspects damage near the hospital|
The danger has intensified the daily stress under which the hospital's medical staff have to function.
Surgeons are conducting operations with sirens sounding every few minutes, sometimes followed by a dull or heavy thud, depending on how close a missile lands.
Patients recovering from surgery or those on ventilators cannot be moved to the hospital's bomb shelters quickly enough, and medics invariably have to stay with them.
Resources have also been set aside in case of mass casualties - some 20 trolleys are permanently stationed outside the main entrance where ambulances have been arriving in quick succession.
"We have had to deal with large-scale incidents in the past, such as suicide attacks which have caused 100 casualties," said Professor Raphael Beyar, the centre's director, "but the victims have been spread between hospitals.
There's no ethics of war out here |
Professor Lael-Anson Best
"What is different about this war is that now they come here from all over the area and we have to think about our own security.
"The hospital is continually under threat but patients still need treatment."
Just 35km(20 miles) south of the Lebanese border, the centre has historically treated troops injured in combat.
On Wednesday, a soldier injured in the first ground battle with Hezbollah was airlifted from the field and rushed to the hospital.
But for the first time the hospital is receiving civilians with war injuries too.
Of the 700 patients being treated at Rambam, about 63 have been hurt in rocket attacks.
Many of the casualties have been wounded by some 14kg of ball-bearings packed into the missile warheads, designed to cause maximum damage.
Trolleys are on stand-by in case of mass casualties|
Among those in the hospital recovering from such injuries are survivors of the deadliest missile strike on Israel so far.
From his bed on the ninth floor, Yossi Heder, 39, recalled how he and his workmates were cut down by the ball-bearings, which "went through the bodies like cheese".
The missile slammed through the roof of the railway depot in Haifa last Sunday, killing eight of Mr Heder's colleagues and injuring some 14 more.
It was, for those who died, a "very fast death", he said.
In the next bed lay Sami Raz, 39, who nearly lost his life in the attack.
Initially, he was believed to have been only superficially wounded, but when Mr Raz was brought to Rambam, Prof Best found his heart had been punctured by a ball-bearing.
Mr Raz underwent emergency surgery, without which he would have died within minutes.
Sami Raz survived a missile packed with ball bearings|
As we spoke, a siren warning of an imminent missile strike started up outside, but the patients in this ward could not be moved.
"Don't worry," said Mr Heder, a religious Jew.
"The attack at the railway only strengthened my faith.
"If God wants us to stay alive he'll save us. If not, then that's also his will. Everyone's going to get his day, and with [Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah, it's only a matter of time."