Inside an Israeli village attacked by Hamas: ‘Today, nobody lives here’

On Nov. 17, 2023, the Israeli government’s Global Press Office organized a tour of a village on the border with the Gaza Strip.

Netiv HaAsara is just metres from the border fence at the north end of Gaza and was one of the first communities hit in the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

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Nearby, the home of Bilha and Yakhovi Inon sits in ruins. The couple was killed in the attack and their home burned to the ground.

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Fenlon says Yakhovi, 78, was a farmer, and his wife Bilha, 75, was an artist. She had decorated their bomb shelter, trying to turn it into a place of optimism and hope.

“An RPG was shot into their house,” says Fenlon, referencing the acronym for rocket-propelled grenade. “It was burned completely with them inside.”

As journalists moved through the rubble, filming the scene, an Indian crew was shooting a walk-and-talk standup. That’s where a journalist talks to the recording camera while walking. Suddenly, loud sirens started going off, blasting a warning of incoming rockets.

I was close enough to the open door of the bomb shelter to duck inside quickly. Others went down to the ground and covered their heads with their hands as we’d been told to do on the bus.

Seconds later, the Israeli “Iron Dome” defence system blew up the rockets in the air. The smoke trails were still over our heads and as I walked away, I found myself wondering if the couple that lived in the home had been killed in the bomb shelter I had just used.

I also realized I probably should have been wearing the helmet I had left on the bus.

Journalists look out of a bus window at a plume of smoke from Gaza during a media tour of Netiv HaAsara, a village on the border.

Global News

During the entire tour, we could hear explosions and gunfire in Gaza. It was clear the fighting was close.

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Israeli Defence Forces Maj. David Baruch was an escort on the tour. He said the sounds of war made him think of peace. A reserve officer with a wife and children, he says he looks forward to putting away his weapon and uniform.

“It’s important that people realize this isn’t something we wanted to do,” Baruch says. “Our war isn’t with the people of Gaza, but Hamas changed the rules.”

Just on the outskirts of the village, there is a gate. Gazans who had jobs on the Israeli side of the border would use it to go back and forth.

The wall is decorated with a colourful mosaic that has become a tourist attraction for the village.

It’s called Path for Peace, something Vainer says he’s having trouble believing exists.

“I think it will be a lot of generations before we have peace,” he says.

An Israeli soldier stands next to a painted wall in the village of Netiv Haasara on the border with Gaza.

Global News

Fenlon says victory won’t come on the other side of the border wall, it will be in rebuilding Netiv HaAsara. She says she doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to move back.

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In fact, there’s been talk that the government might move the village further from the wall. Fenlon says she will return — but admits it won’t be the same.

“We live next to a vicious terror organization. We didn’t know how vicious they can be. We didn’t realize the amount of cruelty they will bring.”


: World