The moment overnight Israeli airstrikes landed metres from our Gaza hotel

The airstrike that hit the hut metres from the ITV News hotel in Gaza. Credit: ITV News

By Middle East Correspondent Geraint Vincent

The missile arrived just after I had gone to bed. I heard a distant whirr, which got suddenly louder, and then a huge bang as whatever it was slammed into the ground outside my hotel.

I threw myself onto the floor in a probably vain attempt to protect myself from any shrapnel. None came. I put on my body armour - always difficult when you’re shaking with fright - and went out onto the landing.

Other reporters had done the same as me, we were looking at each other, trying to think of a sensible thing to do. My cameraman, Rob, emerged from his room. He could see the flames at the site where the missile had landed from his balcony.

We went to have a look. The night air was full of smoke and the smell of explosives. I could see the fire about 25 yards away, burning on the beach.

Then the whirring sound again. I jumped back inside and ran to the landing. Another huge bang. Another missile strike, in the same place. Rob had been much braver than me. He’d stayed on the balcony as the missile came in, keeping his camera rolling. We looked back at the tape.

We can hear the whirr, and we can see Rob’s feet as he ducks for cover, and then the fire when he stands up again. But the noise of the missile’s impact had been to much for the camera’s microphone to deal with.

Typically, the footage fails to convey the terror of the moment.

This morning we drank coffee on the terrace downstairs, as hotel staff swept up shrapnel under our feet. We looked at what remained of the innocuous-looking huts and containers on the beach that had been the targets of such clear military precision. Just a pile of twisted metal and charred bricks. We mused that the missiles had been fired from out at sea, and had destroyed some kind of Hamas storage facility. We looked around nervously, pointing out other bits of beach building which could possibly be future targets.

We had been close to two of the 160 strikes on Gaza that the Israeli armed forces say they carried out last night.

Read: Israel launches 'open-ended' airstrikes against Gaza

The explosions we experienced would have been as nothing compared to the enormous force needed to collapse those buildings that have been destroyed here in the last 48 hours. Israeli aircraft and warships are targeting Hamas infrastructure, the homes of its leaders, rocket-launching sites and command and control centres.

Read: 27 Palestinians dead after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza

Their operation is called ‘Protective Edge’, but so far it doesn't seem to be working. Hamas is still firing its rockets, and they are reaching ever further into Israel, landing in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

As the air-raid sirens wail in Israel’s main population centres, the Israeli government comes under more pressure to stop the rockets, and the possibility of Israeli tanks rolling into Gaza gets bigger.

There are no warnings when the missiles arrive in Gaza, but the wailing of mourners at the funerals of people killed in the air strikes is followed by Hamas promises to avenge the dead.

The much-talked about ‘escalation’ of this conflict is happening, and explosions on the beach may well have been just the start.

More: Civilians caught in escalating Middle East violence