Just a few seconds after midnight and while a crowd of young people celebrate the arrival of 2024 on a busy street in Tel Aviv, some rush to seek shelter as they see rockets in the sky being intercepted by Israel’s anti-missile defense.

Others continue to party as if nothing is happening…

“I’m terrified, my heart is pounding,” says 26-year-old Gabriel Zemelman, who came to celebrate with his friends. “I wish every person in the world to live a normal life, without fearing that they may die tomorrow,” adds the young Israeli.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack. As they announced, they launched an attack with M90 rockets “in response to the massacres of civilians” by the Israeli armed forces.

A spokesman for the Israeli Armed Forces (IDF) confirmed the attack, but did not report casualties or damage.

“We will learn to live together”

On a busy Tel Aviv street lined with bars and restaurants, a 17-year-old high school student says she was initially “scared” to go out, but eventually decided to celebrate with friends “a new beginning” that she hopes will will bring in 2024.

“I pray for peace, to stop hating each other,” says 25-year-old musician Boaz Bates. He criticizes the members of the Netanyahu government for their choices, saying that “they are not the ones fighting on the battlefield”.

Ido Hervitch chose to dine at a restaurant before attending a party at a friend’s house. He hopes that “we will learn to live together, because most of us want peace.” The feelings of this 24-year-old IT student are mixed: “Our country is at war, but we have to go on with our lives.”

A 24-year-old friend of his, who used to work in the information service of the armed forces, explains that she feels the need to go out and have fun but at the same time she feels “sad” that some of her friends are involved in military operations in the Gaza Strip.

Following the bloody attack by Hamas on October 7, which killed around 1,140 people in southern Israel, the Israeli armed forces have been relentlessly pounding the Gaza Strip. According to the latest tally from the Hamas Health Ministry, 21,822 Palestinians have been killed and another 56,541 wounded by Israeli forces’ airstrikes and ground operations.

“I’m not in the mood to celebrate”

Outside a Tel Aviv bar, where several groups of young people danced to the beats of electronic music, a giant sign: “Bring them home now!” dominates. It refers to the 129 people, out of the approximately 250 kidnapped by Hamas fighters in the October 7 attack, who are still being held hostage in the Gaza Strip.

There are not a few who are in no mood to celebrate, like Ran Stahl, a 24-year-old waiter who chose to work this New Year’s Eve. He says that a friend of his was killed in the attack by gunmen at the ‘Tribe of Nova’ music festival on October 7. Since then, she feels like she doesn’t have the right to have fun: “As soon as I start dancing, I feel guilty, sadness and mourning come back,” she explains.