Monday was the deadliest day in almost four years in the Gaza Strip, with more than 60 Palestinians reportedly killed by Israeli fire at the border. But Tuesday was a lot calmer. Farmers were in their fields, students were in school, and restaurants and cafes were full of locals escaping the Middle Eastern sun.
But for some, the fear remains.
For Jehan Berman, a farmer from a kibbutz bordering the Strip where thousands of Palestinian demonstrated violently on Monday, the fear of thousands of Gazans infiltrating his community is very real.
“What if 1,000 people cross the border and within two minutes they are inside the community? We are very afraid of that – and that’s why the tension on the border is very stressful for everyone here. Because if we have a human wave [like that] it will be a massacre on both sides, that’s for sure. They are not coming here for a cup of coffee.
“You see where we are?” he asked me, as we stood in a field overlooking the Hamas-run enclave, mere meters from where we stood. “We are so close.
“Thank God it’s quiet right now – but this kind of silence make us very nervous,” he said as he pointed toward the lone kite in the air. “We are more nervous and stressed, because they will do something, that’s for sure.”
Berman was guiding me around the fields of the kibbutz when we met a group of Golani Brigade soldiers who had witnessed the protests the previous day.
“I saw with my own eyes Hamas activists pushing people [including] women and children to the fence,” one soldier told The Jerusalem Post
. Another said he saw one man pushed to the border in a wheelchair before he stood up and ran away.
When asked about the high number of casualties that included youths, another soldier explained that they had been given permission to shoot at protesters’ lower extremities, if they approached the fence.
“If it’s children then we cannot shoot at them, but when they pass the border we have the authority to shoot at them,” he said. “I saw one child cross the fence into Israel from Gaza yesterday, and we shot at him.”
Elad Katzir, 42, an irrigation-system manager at Kibbutz Nir Oz, which also borders the Gaza Strip, told the Post
that the community has lost hundreds of thousands of shekels after incendiary kites burned dozens of hectares of agricultural fields.
Instead of bringing peace and quiet to the residents of the Gaza border, Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Strip “brought the opposite: It got worse and we had three military operations – and the residents here are still traumatized, especially mentally. Strong and weak, the mental trauma affects everyone,” Katzir said.
“We lost all of the work that we have done on the fields... the last minute that we were set to sow the fields, they were burned by such a cheap and simple device.”
The fires also damaged engineering tools and communication equipment, Katzir said.
“My personal opinion [was that] the IDF should have shot those who launched the kites from the beginning, because then it would have stopped. But they didn’t – and now the kites are going further, giving them the ability to cause even greater damage,” he lamented.
It’s not only about the financial damage.
“For someone who has been working on the fields his entire life, it feels as if someone has come into my house and burned it down; that you grew something and someone burned it down,” Katzir said, explaining that the residents of the kibbutz are still traumatized by the three wars against Hamas in Gaza, in 2009, 2012 and 2014.
“We are not happy about those who died, especially the kids, but our army is the most moral army in the world,” Katzir said. “We don’t want to kill anyone, but I would rather that someone be killed on the border than that they come into Israel and our communities.”
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