A WOMAN, originally from Magherafelt and now living in Tel Aviv, has described the horror of what is happening in the Middle East.
Mother-of-three Alison McLernon said: "It's all very hard to process."
More than 1,200 Israelis were killed during last Saturday's incursion into Israel. An estimated 150, including women and children, are being held captive.
In retaliation, Israel's military has launched airstrikes on Gaza, killing more than 1,300 Palestinians. Israel has also established a complete siege on the region, denying it food, fuel, and other necessities.
Ms McLernon (49) recalls the shock as the attacks began. "Snippets of information coming through hinted at a nightmare situation but no real news was available," she said.
Confusion reigned, with rockets and helicopters over the city.
Reports soon emerged of a kibbutz under siege and families killed.
"News of friends who had lost family members or whose family members are missing presumed captive," McLernon lamented.
At home with her two daughters, 14 and 12, and six-year-old son, she finds it difficult to process the horrors.
"I don't want them to be alone," McLernon said, as she avoids leaving them to get supplies.
Staying busy helps her cope, but only up to a minor extent. "When I put my head on my pillow, those horrific videos run on repeat," she admitted.
McLernon moved to Israel over 20 years ago after volunteering at a kibbutz. She met her husband Iztik in Tel Aviv, where their three children were born.
Now their city is under attack, but McLernon refuses to surrender hope. "I'm doing everything to keep us safe," she insisted.
Her parents pleaded for her to return to Northern Ireland. But uprooting her family's life is not simple.
"My life is here, I have a business here, my friends are here, my husband's family, my kids have lived their whole lives here. While part of me wants to run screaming back to Northern Ireland pulling up the roots of an entire family is not something to take lightly," McLernon explained.
So she chooses to stay, taking it "one day at a time".
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She said her community has shown incredible resilience, uniting to support victims.
"After 20 years here, it's nice to be positively surprised by the people I've lived among so long."
More than two million Palestinians live in Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007.
Most are refugees or descendants of those displaced by Israel's founding.
They have fought repeated conflicts with Israel over crippling blockades and military strikes. Gaza officials report more than 700 Palestinian deaths in the current Israeli air offensive.
Now Israelis are preparing for a potential ground invasion of Gaza, even as they mourn their dead and rally to support survivors.
For Mrs McLernon, solace emerges from the outpouring of goodwill she has received on social media. "I have literally been inundated with messages and it has been one of the things that have kept me going."