'The terrorists were moving from one house to another trying to kill us': Citizens under attack tell of chaos in Israel

Ordinary people reeling from the horror of the first day of the terror attacks speak to the JC from their safe rooms


TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 07: A damaged building hit by a rocket fired from Gaza strip on October 7, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) say that Hamas "had begun a massive shooting of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory" which the Palestinian militant group has taken responsibility for. The IDF also say that militants had entered Israeli territory in "different locations". A counter attack has been launch against Gaza. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Israelis on the border with Gaza have spoken of their horror as events unfurled around them while they were confined to their safe rooms.

Hundreds of thousands will be spending the night in their safe rooms and bombs shelters after a day of murder and violence.

Israeli medical student Bar Mizrachi, who was visiting his parents at their kibbutz two kilometres from the Gaza border, said he knew as soon as the rockets started at 6.30am that something was different about this attack.

"We are used to missiles and rockets coming over but the rate of the attack was something else,’ says the 29-year-old whose family was woken by alarm at Kibbutz Given seconds before the rocket attacks started," he said.

"I had a really bad feeling about it. The noise didn’t stop for twenty minutes and then we started to hear a lot of alarms, firearms and bombs."

Each of the southern kibbitzes have units made up of members who were in the IDF and his kibbutz was protected as Hamas terrorists attempted to attack them.

"They managed to repel the terrorists but two of our people were injured and one of them is now missing,"said Mizrachi.

"The unit is going from door to door checking everyone is ok but it’s a very frightening and confusing time as people are saying Hamas are also dressing up as our soldiers and knocking on doors."

Confined to only contacting each other by phone, horror upon horror soon emerged.

One of their family friends revealed how she had been forced to hide in the bushes for her life when the terrorists, in one of their first acts, attacked a rave in the early hours of Kibbutz Reim.

"There was gunshot and she went to hide in the bushes and she could hear voices in Arabic just shooting everyone on sight," Mizrachi said.

"They were laughing and it was like they were having fun just killing all those young people. Pictures were there posted on Al Jazeera showing militants standing over many bodies."

It is estimated that around 500 young people were at the rave and many of them are still unaccounted for.

Mizrachi described how a cousin in another kibbutz could hear Palestinians sitting in their nearby lounge as they hid in their safe room. They had just learned of a woman who had gone into labour in her safe room whose house was torched by terrorists, he said.

"We know a lot of people who are saying that their fathers or their sisters have been kidnapped."

Hairdresser Yogev Gamari, 43, from the Moshav Yesha described in tears that three of his friends were dead. Speaking from a safe room with his wife, mother-in-law and three children he said terrorists arrived in his village 20 minutes after the first rocket attacks.

"We could hear them shooting all over the place, everywhere," he said. "The shooting came closer and closer. There was screaming, there was crying.

"The terrorists were moving from one house to another trying to kill us. They knocked on our doors and pretended to be IDF soldiers. We locked our house. We stayed in our safe room. It has a steel door and very thick bullet proof walls – it is only this which has kept us safe from death."

Gamari continued: "A few of my friends were together – I don’t even know where they were. I was on the phone to one of them and then I could hear shooting and the cry of ‘help’. And then nothing.

"One of my friends was with them. He had a gun and he managed to escape and join other men who were trying to defend our village. He wrote on the WhatsApp that they were dead but now I don’t know what has happened to him. There is a lot of confusion."

Another Israeli, student Eden Bart, was also hiding with her family in their kibbutz, which she didn’t want to name, and could hear gunfire from a kibbutz 1km away.

"We raced downstairs as soon as the bomb alert went off," Bart said. "And then we heard rockets, bombs, plans, missiles, helicopters. The big difference with this attack is that there has been infiltration. We can hear a lot of rifles, machine guns and some screaming – we think it is from the kibbutz next to ours which has been occupied by Hamas. We were told that it was liberated but then we heard more shooting.

"The only contact with the outside world has been via our phones. We are a religious family so normally we would not have our phone on during Shabbat but we knew people would be worried about us. Some people that we know have been killed in the kibbutz next door and in other places. We are still trying to find relatives and friends – no one knows where these people are."

The kibbutz’s militia of men who were formerly in the IDF were stationed on the road outside but Bart said it was a terrifying time: "My grandparents are alone in their house across the street, there are lots of people who are alone and we don’t know what is happening. We are sitting here feeling very stressed and fearing for our lives, particularly as we know what is going on a very short distance from us."

Even if the IDF does manage to secure the kibbutz, Bart is also fearful of what might follow: "We have all been living like this for a long time – we need peace. But things are likely to get much worse – both for us and the citizens of Gaza who are also the victims of Hamas."

London-born Esther Marcus, on Kibbutz Alumim, 3km from the Gaza border, is also worried about the days and weeks to come. She was expecting to spend the night with six members of her family in their safe room after a five-hour gunfight at their kibbutz.

"Quite quickly after the first rockets, we heard gunfire which was very close," Marcus said.

"We know there was a battle here on the kibbutz that went on for about five hours and we know people were hurt but we don’t know much more than that.

"We got messages telling us terrorists were infiltrating and we shouldn’t move. Sometimes it sounded like a constant bout of shooting. There were times when we were told we had to try and stay as quiet as possible - which isn’t easy when you have two babies in the room with you - turn off all the lights and close the windows."

She added: "There are still rockets coming over all the time and it is complete chaos. My son and son-in-law have both been called up [for service] but at the moment they can’t go anywhere as we all have to stay inside. As soon as they are allowed out, people know they will have to go off and fight."

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