Oct 9 (Reuters) – When Avidor Schwartzman was woken by booming noises on Saturday morning, his first instinct was to grab his one-year-old daughter and his second was to think the disturbance wouldn’t last long.
The Kfar Aza kibbutz where he and his family live lies close to Gaza, an impoverished Palestinian enclave under Israeli blockade. They were used to militants firing rockets that would either fall short of their thousand-strong collective farming community or be shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
When they got a kibbutz-wide text an hour later telling them it was dangerous to be outside, they moved to a safe room, thinking that perhaps one or two militants had entered the compound, where the houses are set among palm trees.
For the next 18 hours he felt “complete, paralysing terror”, he said. “They didn’t stop shooting at our home.”
“I heard people talking in Arabic. And all in the time, shooting, we heard shooting like automatic fire.”
To his huge relief, his one-year-old daughter made no sound as he and his wife froze. By evening they had lost phone contact with his wife’s parents, who live nearby. Only when the army came to rescue them did reality sink in.
“It looked like something between a warzone and pure hell. Bodies everywhere and, and bullet holes everywhere. And my wife’s parents are nowhere to be found,” he told Reuters in Herzliya north of Tel Aviv, where they are staying with relatives.
Expressing disbelief that people had come to the quiet community “just to kill people”, he said the militants had taken advantage of divisions among Israelis.
In the previous weeks, protests by young men in Gaza, where over half the population lives below the poverty line, have focused economic unrest, the Palestinian national cause and Israeli occupation, and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The Israeli military said on Monday it had called up 300,000 reservists and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, signs it could be planning a ground assault on Hamas after the group killed hundreds of Israelis and took dozens hostage. Hundreds of Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed in retaliatory air strikes.
Schwartzman said he did not want to talk in terms of retaliation or vengeance but wanted the authorities to put an end to the tragedy.
“Please stop it, stop the bloodshed,” he said.
Reporting by Emily Rose; writing by Philippa Fletcher;
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