BEIRUT

Middle East

Israeli app tracks rocket attacks

A beach-goer runs with a baby for shelter as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in Tel Aviv July 15, 2014. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israelis have found a new way to learn of imminent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip: a mobile phone app.

More than 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israeli cities in the past week. Typically, air raid sirens blare and residents have between 15 and 90 seconds to head to bomb shelters and safe rooms.

Many have also downloaded the app, called Red Alert, to their phones.

“The initial thought was to help people in the south. We didn’t think we would need to help people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but we do,” said Ari Sprung, a co-developer of the app.

Israel has responded to the rocket salvos – most of which have been intercepted by an Iron Dome system – with airstrikes on Gaza.

Most of the rockets launched from Gaza since 2005 have been aimed at southern towns, but Hamas and other groups now have missiles that can reach deeper into Israel.

The app has been downloaded by some 500,000 Israelis on their Android mobiles and iPhones, with another 50,000 in the U.S. having downloaded an English version.

Once a rocket is fired, Israel’s military sounds sirens and also notifies Red Alert’s servers. Its servers crashed when rocket fire turned to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but they were quickly back up.

“The No. 1 reason we created it was to save lives,” said the U.S.-born Sprung, who works at Jerusalem start-up Curiyo. “I hope I can un-publish it in the future.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 16, 2014, on page 9.

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