Israel's two largest cities were transformed into virtual ghost towns Thursday, with citizens ordered to remain at home and police units patrolling empty streets.

Usually bustling Tel Aviv, the city Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein threatened to strike first if attacked by allied forces, was at a standstill."From my window you can only see trees swaying in the wind," said Ariel Laor, 30, a city resident. "All the shops are closed."

Jerusalem was much the same. Despite the growing feeling that Iraq no longer constituted a threat to Israel, people weren't taking chances.

"Such fear I have never seen," says Ben Zion Borochov, 65, pointing at the deserted street where his barber shop is located. "In the 1967 Six Day war (when Israel fought five Arab armies) there was tension but not such fear."

Orli Cahen, 26, felt a sort of relief when she heard a military spokesman early Thursday night urging residents to remain home and open protective kits against a chemical missile attack.

"OK, it had happened, then we started insulating our room with plastic sheets and then we called our parents to tell them everything," she said.

Virtually no one could be seen walking through the popular Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, where on a normal day hundreds of Israelis and tourists shop and frequent sidewalk cafes.