JERUSALEM — Students, faculty and staff at BYU's Jerusalem Center took cover Tuesday in bomb shelters on the property during a Hamas missile attack on the city.
"The news makes it seem that things are very dangerous here," one student, Brad Barber, 21, a junior from Pasco, Washington, wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. "Things are tense, but we're completely safe in Jerusalem."
Barber is one of 72 BYU students who arrived in the Middle East on April 29 for a combined spring/summer term at the center. The term ends in mid-August, university spokesman Joe Hadfield said.
The BYU students were returning from a trip to Jordan, Barber's mother told the Tri-City Herald, when they learned the deaths of three Israeli teens had sparked new violence between Israel and Hamas.
The teens went missing on June 12 while hitchhiking home. They were found dead in shallow graves on June 30. Israel blamed Hamas.
Hamas blamed Israeli extremists for the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen two days later.
Barber told his parents a week ago that he was watching history as Palestinians protested in a park near the Jerusalem Center.
Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip began launching dozens of missiles into Israel a few days ago, according to The Atlantic. The rockets are largely ineffective and many have been intercepted by Israeli Iron Dome defense missiles.
Israeli forces have struck more than a hundred targets in Gaza, killing dozens, in what the army says is an effort to end the rocket fire.
Palestinian rockets do not target Mount Scopus, where the Jerusalem Center is located, because it is surrounded by Palestinian neighborhoods and stands close to the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest Muslim sites.
The rockets have caused increased concern in Israel because some have longer range than in past attacks. News reports Wednesday implicated Iran for exporting longer-range missiles to Hamas militants.5 comments on this story
BYU officials posted security updates on the Jerusalem Center's website on July 2 and Monday, the day before the rocket attacks.
"The Jerusalem Center is safe," Monday's update said. "All students participated in a calm and uneventful field trip to Bethlehem earlier today. Because of current tensions, East Jerusalem and the Old City are currently off limits to students, and travel to West Jerusalem is permitted during daylight hours only. Travel to and from West Jerusalem is by taxi only, and the use of public transportation (including light rail) within Jerusalem is prohibited until further notice."
The update posted July 2 said the center's administration had restricted student travel through last Saturday night.