WHILE on a visit to experience the history and culture of Israel, BRAD MARSHALL reports as tensions and violence continue between the Israelis and Palestinians

IN the middle of a briefing with journalists Michael Oren, deputy minister in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, is informed that rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.

The feeling of anguish is evident in Mr Oren, however the meeting, as with much of life in Israel, continues as normal.

I am in Israel as part of a delegation of British media organised by the Israeli Embassy to experience its history and culture, and be exposed to the nation’s delicate existence on a knife edge, punctuated by violence and conflict of the most extreme nature.

We awoke yesterday to news of a failed Israeli covert operation into Gaza, aiming to kill a Hamas commander.

Two miles inside Gaza, the Israeli unit became involved in a gun battle, with Israeli tanks and aircraft pouring supporting fire into the area.

The operation resulted in the death of a high-ranking Israeli officer, as well as seven Palestinians, six members of Hamas and one from the Popular Resistance Committees. The Israeli Defence Force said another of its soldiers was injured.

The botched mission pushed the already febrile tensions in the region to boiling point and Hamas responded with more than 300 rockets and mortar fire throughout yesterday, hitting a bus.

Israel countered with 70 strikes on what it said were Hamas and Jihadi targets.

But 150 miles further north in Jerusalem, where we have spent the past two days, the situation and atmosphere could not be further removed.

In the city life goes on, the restaurants, bars and market places are teeming with life.

People dance and drink to pop music and there is a pervasive feeling of calm and safety as if the conflict were as far away as Beijing.

In the days after the Manchester Arena attack, the city and our region visibly and tangibly changed forever.

The streets were half empty for days, and the feeling of overwhelming shock and sorrow, but also defiance, were inescapable.

As I write, we are travelling to the Gaza border region and to a college which was hit by a rocket less than 24 hours ago.

Yesterday we were told to wear “sneakers” because we may need to run from mortar and rocket fire.

But the situation in Jerusalem is testament to the desensitisation a population can achieve in respect to endemic and constant violence. Life must go on as normal, or it would not go on at all.

Yet it is also testament to the stoicism, strength and resolve of the Israeli people. They will not be cowed by such brutality.

Such horrors also make a daily occurrence for the people of Gaza, who too remain defiant and resolute.

The fortitude of the people here truly is as deep-rooted and as old as the hills upon which these ancient cities stand.