“Death hits from every direction”: An account of the unbearable sights from the Kibutzim enveloping Gaza.
We were welcomed to the Kibutzim enveloping Gaza with a long line of bullet-riddled abandoned vehicles, a silent testament to the massacre that took place here 3 days ago. In 35 years of international reporting I have never seen anything like this.
Operation “Swords of steel”: Just west of Sa’ad kibbutz there is an armored IDF jeep. It is bullet riddled and abandoned and across the street there is a private civilian vehicle with a corpse lying just in front of it towards the traffic circle left there from the battle that took place the night before. “Terrorist” said Yuval who rushed from his home in Jerusalem to the Kibutzim enveloping Gaza to provide Talit (a gown used for prayer) to the soldiers passing by on their way to the assembly locations, “Otherwise someone would have taken him by now”.
Convoys of soldier-carrying trucks surrounded the junction on their way to the assembly locations. From the small forest next to me I could hear the sound of roaring engines of tanks and mechanized army combat vehicles. The soldiers in the junction, heavily armed young army reserves with their guns ready for action, didn’t let me get any closer. They were very alert. Last night, at the same spot they eliminated a Hamas terrorist who was still hiding there. It’s just 1 kilometer from Sa’ad junction to Kfar Aza, 2 kilometers to Nahal Oz and 4 kilometers to Be’eri. These are the places where most people were injured, murdered or kidnapped.
At Nativ Ha’Asara, which is just next to Erez border point, 15 Israelis were murdered. Two of them, Bela and Jacobi Yinon, were close beloved friends of mine. When I heard the news from their son, Ma’oz, whom I texted to check on them, he texted back: “died at 7am”. A broken heart emoji accompanied his text message. I could not hold back the tears. I don’t cry much. In 35 years of covering wars and disasters around the world I have seen more death, pain and suffering than most people. However, what happened here surpasses everything I’ve seen and it’s the most horrifying act I have ever witnessed.
I texted a friend in Be’eri on Saturday morning. No reply. I texted another acquaintance in Be’eri who was evacuated to the dead sea with other survivors. He replied that my friend is missing. The bad news continued to pile up. Be’eri was a magnificent kibbutz: with a print, a factory, and excellent dairy, a welcoming dining room and fabulous gardening. A place where you would enjoy cycling.
I just received a message from Yoram Shpirer of Nitzanim, who I know for decades. “My eldest son went cycling around Be’eri on Saturday morning. He was murdered”. Death hits you from all directions. I am writing with tears in my eyes. I thought I only cry in movies. The murdered have faces. Void (chalal in hebrew) is the title given to the dead. There is a void forming within us and it is filling with tears and sorrow.
On alert without guns
Time is solid in the Kibutzim enveloping Gaza. Incident follows incident and every second has a meaning. A few years ago a behavioral psychologist told me that this is a common phenomenon. When someone is confronted by a disaster or an accident the events are carved into memory second by second. He doesn’t know what is about to happen and the events register in the brain in order to forge the proper understanding of the situation and act accordingly. To respond. The situation all of us are engaged in in the last few days stimulates adrenaline and stress. It is one of the most exhausting existential situations there are.
The army rushes in full force towards the assembly locations. The feeling on the road, all the way through to the blocked roads on the west, is of full security. 48 hours after the murderous Hamas invasion the army succeeded to contain the situation and hold the border. The to arrive were the light and fast-responding units which were later joined by the paratroopers and Golani,. Above us there is an Apache attack helicopter. Smoke rose from Gaza and the air smells of gun powder and of fires. This is what wars smell like. And rotting corpses.
At the entrance to Kfar Mimon there was another bullet riddled armored IDF jeep with its front and side windows shattered. On the pavement there was another civilian vehicle. Deserted and destroyed. There are more like this, scattered along the roads to the party at Re’im, on the pavements and in the groves.
I texted the family kids, one serves at Egoz, the others in Givaty elite unit, the paratroopers and the armored forces. They all reported that they just arrived at their assembly locations. The regular IDF units do not carry cellular phone. Cellular phones are a death trap. The enemy can pinpoint your location, it can be used as a bugging device even when it is turned off and its camera may be activated remotely.
This is one of the army’s weak points. How did Hamas know how many soldiers are there, where they are located, what is happening in the advanced war rooms and on the computer screens? The IDF’s field security service, “a cyber army”, is one most glaring achilles heals. The exact opposite of Hamas, where communications are scrambled, underground or via landlines. Don’t look for traitors. Look for negligence and flawed control. Close your cellphones and don’t ask your kids to tell you where they are. You’re endangering them.
And the party? The party was advertised on every internet platform. All those who registered received a link with the precise location. Hamas did not get there by accident. The party was one of their main targets – thousands of youngsters gathered in one point. Hamas got there deliberately. Not by accident. They had no chance. Hundreds of murdered at the party and a thousand wounded were the exact target of Hamas. The main target.
This is where the vast majority of fast trucks were sent after crossing through the fences. Blindfolding of the eyes, targeting the control centers, blocking the roads so that closing back the border will be impossible. Killing and kidnapping of as many as possible. And the kibbutzes near by, from which the idiot army has decided to confiscate weapons (by whose order? The minister of homeland security?) and leave them defenseless.
And of course, the news about the advanced notice given by the Egyptians warning Netanyahu about the upcoming attack. A notice that the man who should have left his office long ago decided to dismiss. Netanyahu is lying. No news here. He lies as he breaths. The blood of the dead and the murdered is on his hands, the same hands that are holding the steering wheel. Also, that of those who will follow. My friends, their parents, the dead soldiers and those who will die. Every second he is in office is a national disaster in progress.
I’ve watched the snuff videos released by Hamas on Saturday morning. Murdering the injured Israeli soldiers. The joy of the mob. Dragging of the kidnapped into Gaza. The mother with her children, the terrified youngsters kidnapped from the party. I knew that as the hours will go by, the fog of war will clear and we will know more. Already then I knew that everything we will learn as the time goes by will be far more devastating than what I was watching then. Hamas propaganda machine was showing us only what is serving their interests.
Comparisons? In the 35 years I’ve been covering world crises I have never seen anything like that. Mass murder. Massacre. An attack aimed to kill and destroy. The closest I can think of in ISIS and Boko Haram. Same people. Same murderous fundamental religion that one can’t and shouldn’t negotiate with, only fight and destroy if you seek life.
The consequences of sucking up
I was standing on the road connecting Sa’ad and Netivot, a shot up vehicle behind me. Two helicopters landed in front of me, collecting armed forces of wounded from Kfar Aza. Grey skies. Smoke was tower over Gaza and bombs were falling on the city. The light was beautiful and the west Negev, a fertile piece of land, the Israeli food basket, was lying in front of me soaked in blood. My brothers were calling for me from the ground. My brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents.
In January 1998 I uncovered a massacre of 40 Kosovorians in village called Rachak. I got there because my senses and intuition led me there. The Serbian police shot the faces of the dead to destroy them. Cruelty beyond comprehension. So I thought. The photos and story I brought back from there pushed NATO into attack Yugoslavia leading to Kosovo independence.
On Saturday morning, when the sirens and explosions woke me up in Jaffa, I was wondering what was going on. Hamas Telegram channel provided the answers. ISIS kidnapped Yazidi women to rape and as servants. The men were murdered. The children were recruited to the death platoons, trained to be murderous suicidal animals of pray. Kassam missiles were flying over towards Sderot, Iron dome missiles on the other side. In the field, a battalion of reserves was preparing their armored vehicles.
Convoys of heavy caterpillars of the IDF were on their way to the assembly locations all day. The IDF is preparing invasion. A land assault is a heavy weight question. Can you really put your faith in those who have thus far should utter incompetence, both politically and in terms of leadership? There is no way I’m trusting these people and those who are willing to join their government – they should resign immediately.
Hamas should be eliminated. Its leaders hunted and killed one-by-one. Its trained warriors should meet the same end. No country can tolerate a terrorist entity on its border especially not an entity whose purpose is to murder and enforce a fundamental Islamic regime. Hamas has no wish for peace with Israel. In Arabic, according to Islam, there are several levels of compromise. Hudna – an agreed long term ceasefire. Salam (peace) is also not the end of the conflict and may be broken. This is the agreement Israel has with Egypt. Tzalah (Sulha) is the uppermost level. We don’t have this with Egypt.
In the Hadith, the second most important book after the Quran, appears the Sura of trees and rocks, which I’ve heard for the first time 20 years ago from a farmer next to Hebron. Hadith is the word of the prophet. It is said that the Jews are the soldiers of the Dajal – the devil, who has one eye and a mouth full of shark teeth and he devoured people. On the day of judgement the Jewish soldiers of Dajal will fight the Muslims in the grape pool (the sultans pools) and they will be led by Issa (Jesus). The Muslims will win the battle and the rock and the trees behind which the Jews will hide will call the Muslims to kill the hiding Jews.
Every Muslim knows the Hadith, so do Hamas warriors who massacred the youngsters in the party. When I interviewed captured ISIS warriors in Syria in 2015 they were convinced of their righteousness and that they will ultimately win. They justified the beheadings and murders as the appropriate way to treat the heretics. And the Jews. Soldiers of the devil. Every practicing Muslim knows every detail of the trees and rocks Sura. Everyone in Hamas is part of this. They are the ones controlling Gaza.
Netanyahu personally made sure they stay funded. We can’t afford the privilege of keeping Hamas, the ally of ISIS and the Islamic brotherhood in Egypt. Although one has to remember that the ones who orchestrated a murderous terrorist attack, prepared the traps the tunnels and the ambushes was nurtured by Israeli money suitcases, construction materials and vehicles that went into the Gaza strip via Erez gate.
There is solid evidence to suggest that Hamas terrorists were trained by the Wagner group in Libya in using grenade carrying drones such as the ones that disabled the Israeli tank and watch towers. 35 of these were used during the attack. Israel has been sucking up to Russia for many years. There is someone who is responsible for this sucking up and cooperates with the enemy. Is there a tactical solution? Small roofs that will spray and blow the small bombs above the tanks and personnel carriers? This is of upmost importance for Israel. The factory in Sasa – the best one of its kind in the world, can manufacture these roofs immediately. Have we not learned anything from the war in the Ukraine? Did we fail to come up with any solutions? The most advanced army? Only “forwards advance”? We advanced forward, now we need smart management to eliminate the enemy.
Hamas must be eliminated, the leadership, the military arm and political arm with minimal Israel casualties and clever thinking. Can the IDF do it? With determined and creative commanders. Those who have proven themselves in the past must be called back into duty. Can the chief of the armed forces, who failed in managing the Gaza border, be allowed to managed this war? A prime minister who betrayed every Israeli value and had abandoned the border should lock himself at home and disappear. So should all his ministers. An emergency government with people whose loyalty to Israel and the sanctity of life is undoubtable.
We did not betray
In the dark, in Sderot, rockets and interceptors flash through the sky. On the other side a team of the worlds’ best electricity company was laboring to restore the electricity while the company CEO was standing close by to oversee the repairs. Netanyahu has tried to privatize the Israeli electricity company for years, private owners that are not committed to the public, just committed to make money. Lucky for us, they are still here, working for us.
This country is full of good people. However, cheating, privatization, incitement and greed has brought us to where we are now. Like kibbutz member Uri Ilan wrote on a piece of paper just before committing suicide in the Syrian prison after he was caught with is team – we did not betray. Not us. Our blood is screaming from the fertile grounds of the Kibutzim and Moshavim enveloping Gaza. We will win. Twice. We will win the battle against Hamas and we will win the battle against the government who betrayed us and killed our best with the only intention of gaining personal benefits while tearing bloody pieces of the Israel flesh.
And since I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else in world, and I know the people of this country, I know we will rise, we will win and we will take action. There is no other way. We have our backs against the wall.