Tel Aviv rocket: A statement of defiance from Hamas

Israelis react as an Iron Dome battery intercepts a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, near Tel Aviv Photo: Reuters

The rocket that so panicked bathers on a Tel Aviv beachfront this afternoon we watched a few short moments earlier as it screamed past our office window.

A spectacular sight, an unforgettable roar, and an unmistakable statement of defiance from Hamas.

It was an Iranian-made Fajr 5 missile; part of a longer-range arsenal Israel was saying it had largely destroyed after the first night of air-strikes.

The timing of the launch was significant too.

It burst into the skies around the time tentative talks about a cease-fire were concluding in Cairo.

Report from John Ray in Gaza

In attendance were some big hitters - the exiled Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, the Emir of Qatar, the Turkish Prime Minister and the Egypt's head of intelligence.

You can't call it a peace process, and any case it seems to be at a very early stage.

Conversely, the countdown to war, with Israeli troops massing on the Gaza border seems well advanced.

The last time Israel massed its forces in such numbers it ended with the war with Lebanon in 2006.

Of course, the build up of Israeli troops now could be a bluff; but if it is a bluff, it's on a grand scale.

In Gaza today, you sensed a shift in mood.

The streets have been quiet, many shops are shut.

Gazans are bracing themselves for whatever is to come.

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