A couple from Whittlebury have spoken about how their tour of the Holy Land was cut dramatically short after Jerusalem came under bombardment for the first time in 20 years.
Geoffrey and Jill Clements had planned a 10-day trip visiting some of Israel’s most religious sites.
But three days into their holiday they found themselves hunkered down in their hotel room after air raid sirens alerted them to rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.
Before the raid the couple were able to visit Tel Aviv, the Sea of Galilee and the source of the River Jordan in the Golan Heights.
With an insurgency in Syria bordering the heights Mr Clements said they had considered the possibility of trouble there.
But as they prepared to see Jerusalem, their tour company confirmed the UK Foreign Office had recommended evacuation.
Mr Clements said: “We were going to stay there for four nights and then head south to Bethlehem. But at about 9pm on the Friday we heard the air raid sirens.
“We just closed the windows and pulled the curtains shut and switched on the television news to see what was going on.”
Mr Clements said everyone remained calm and described an atmosphere of surprise rather than fear.
He said: “There was a range of emotions among the other travellers, some just wanted to get out, others were quite blasé.
“So it wasn’t fear as such, in fact Jerusalem seemed to be going about its normal sabbath day business.
“It’s the fact it’s the first time something like this has happened in Jerusalem for 20 years. The Israelis never thought the people of Gaza actually had the military capability of sending rockets so far.”
Mr Clements said he did not feel equipped to comment on the wider conflict and the Israeli retaliation but added: “It is a very difficult situation.
“On the plane back there were Israeli people, with family in the UK, and they were evacuating themselves with young children.
“They had been bombarded for three days solid.”
Israel and Hamas announced a ceasefire on Wednesday evening to end the week of violence which has so far killed around 160 people, including many women and children.
Mr Clements contacted the Advertiser to publicly thank staff at SMS X TRAV of Towcester, who efficiently rearranged a taxi pick up from Heathrow, defusing a potentially stressful trip.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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Temperature: 11 C to 17 C
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