(CBS DETROIT) – The small farming community of Netiv Ha’Asara was one of the targets of the deadly coordinated attack by Hamas on Saturday, Oct. 7.
It is said to be the closest Israeli town to Gaza – located just over 400 yards from the border.
Resident Raz Shmilovich was camping in another area of the Gaza envelope with his wife and three youngest sons when Hamas paragliders landed in his community and began their assault.
His oldest son was home alone when he started to hear heavy gunfire.
“My 17-year-old son is stuck by himself in the bomb shelter,” said Shmilovich. “(His best friend) just texted him that there’s terrorists all around, that it’s impossible that there are Hamas boats that are deploying more terrorists to the beach.”
He said his son’s friend sent him a voice message 10 minutes later to let him know he was hiding in a bathroom on the beach. Then he lost touch with him.
The boy was identified at the morgue later that evening.
In total, Shmilovich said 20 residents of Netiv Ha’Asara were killed, ranging in age from 17 to 80 years old.
Two of the victims were brothers and were American citizens.
Shmilovich recalls feeling helpless not being able to go to his son.
“I cannot get into the area – it’s all completely chaotic,” he said. “By that time, there are hundreds of terrorists all around the Gaza area. I cannot go to my house.”
His son survived the attack and was alone for more than 10 hours in the family’s bomb shelter. Shmilovich’s mother, father, and brother, who live nearby, also survived.
The day following the attack, he returned to the community as a reservist. He described finding several neighbors shot and lying on the ground, some of them beyond recognition.
He said many neighborhood dogs were also found shot in one area.
“A place which I used to call home became a warzone,” he said. “There’s literally death everywhere. We, unfortunately, cannot even attend the funerals because my community is so close to the border that it’s declared a closed military territory. God knows until when we will even be able to bury our dead.”
Now, the family is staying in a hotel near Jerusalem with 150 other families from the town. There’s no plan to return home – they’re not even sure it will ever be an option.
“Unless they show that something has changed, we will not come back,” said Shmilovich. “The government needs to decide if they want it to be no man’s land or a military base area. Okay, do whatever. If you want civilians to come back, you have to get their safety back, their security back and their life back.”
He said there is a lot of anger and a feeling that the current government should step down once the war is over.
“We did feel that somebody messed up big time,” he said. “Somebody left us alone in the front.”
For now, Israelis have been showering their community with donations, from clothing to food to free concerts by well-known artists.
Residents are now tasked with picking up the pieces far from home and accepting their new reality.