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On a solidarity trip to Israel, Rep. Peter King said he and former New York Gov. David A. Paterson Tuesday had to scramble to a shelter in the town of Ashkelon near Gaza when sirens warned of incoming Hamas rockets.
But Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, underwritten by U.S. funds, identified and exploded the rockets, King said, creating loud thuds and puffs of smoke in the clear blue sky.
King, a Seaford Republican, and Paterson, now the chairman of the New York State Democratic Party, were on a two-day trip to Israel sponsored by the New York Board of Rabbis.
Paterson could not be reached for comment.
The Hamas shelling occurred before Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza announced they had agreed on a long-term cease fire, King said.
"I think it is an open-ended cease fire," he said. "We met with one of the negotiators this morning. They said it was possible."
Before the truce kicked in, King said, he and Paterson were among a group inspecting a house that a Hamas rocket had hit earlier in the day.
"Suddenly sirens go off, and we were told you had 15 seconds to get to a shelter," King said in a telephone interview from Israel.
King said he hobbled on a bad ankle and someone grabbed the arm of Paterson, who is legally blind, as they raced across the street to the shelter.
"Fortunately the rockets were intercepted in the air," King said. "I could see the Iron Dome take out one of the rockets. Then I heard a couple of the thuds."
He speculated on the psychological impact of living in a place where the threats of rockets hang over you. "You just have to wonder about the long-term impact of this on people," he said.