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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
In focus: Haifa
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Haifa

The port of Haifa
The northern Israeli city boasts a large sea port
Haifa is Israel's third largest city and is located in the north of country.

Set in rolling hills, Haifa is home to 297,000 residents - many of them Israeli-Arab.

The father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, once called Haifa a "city of the future".

But Haifa is better known for heavy industry than its cutting-edge technology.

The city has an oil refinery supporting petrochemical industries in the area and also boasts a large sea port.

Profound shock

During the recent war - much to the surprise of its citizens and other Israelis - Haifa was on the frontline.

The city is about 30 km south of the Lebanese border but within range of Hezbollah rocket attacks.

According to the Israeli police, 93 rockets fired by Hezbollah landed in the city and its suburbs, killing 11 civilians in the city and on occasion causing serious structural damage to those buildings hit directly.

In total, about 4,000 Hezbollah rockets fell in northern Israel killing 41 civilians and 12 Israeli soldiers.

Israeli rescue workers after a rocket hit the northern Israeli city of Haifa
Some 4,000 Hezbollah rockets fell in northern Israel

Four days after the start of the war, a Hezbollah rocket attack hit a train repair depot in the city killing eight workers. The attack profoundly shook the city's community.

By the end of the first week of the war, over half of Haifa's population had fled the city.

Many of these residents travelled to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - areas untouched by the rockets - to stay with family and friends. Large groups of children were evacuated to summer camps in other parts of Israel or abroad.

For those residents who remained in Haifa, daily life meant spending hours in bomb shelters designed to withstand bomb blasts and gas attacks.

Hospital patients were cared for in specially built bunkers.

The sirens that sounded through the city signalling an imminent rocket attack - sometimes up to 20 times a day - sent people scurrying for the shelters.

Strained relations

While Haifa was not hit as hard as some towns in northern Israel - Kiryat Shmona, for example, was hit by over 200 rockets - the impact on the city was enormous.

Shops, restaurants and other businesses were closed.

Soldiers by a damaged building, Haifa
Some of the city's buildings suffered serious structural damage

Most residents minimised the time they spent on the streets for fear of the rocket attacks.

But some people insisted on going to work and trying to continue their normal daily routines so as not to be "defeated" by Hezbollah.

Over the years, the city has acquired a reputation as a place of peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Arabs. But the war has seriously strained those relations.

The deputy Mayor of Haifa, Walid Hamis, resigned from his post in opposition to the war.

The city boasts a successful football team Maccabi Haifa, one of Israel's most successful.

Haifa is also known for being the location of the Bahai World Centre - a religious centre for the Bahai religion - with stunning terraced gardens, cascading down Mount Carmel.

But for now, many people only associate the city with Hezbollah rocket attacks.




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