Living Under Siege: One Mile from the Gaza Border
One Mile From the Gaza Border, ISRAEL-- Shai Hermesh lives on a Kubutz in Israel a mile away from the Gaza border. He has lived on the Kubutz for over 50 years, the Kubutz was founded in 1956. Sitting in the dining room, he spoke about the fear that the residents live in on a daily basis: "We didn't know about the underground tunnels, we are scared of the tunnels. They are here in the Kubutz."
The dining room at the Kubutz can feed close to 500 people. The IDF discovered one entry point of a tunnel that went directly into a dining room of a Kubutz. In some of the tunnels the IDF have neutralized where Hamas members attempted an attack, anti-tank missiles, grenades, handcuffs, tranquilizers, and machine guns have been found. In some of the tunnels, the IDF found jail cells where Hamas members were planning on holding hostages underground.
Over 700 people have left the Kubutz since the conflict started three weeks ago. The people living there are under constant siege. Almost every home now has a safety shelter where the residents have 15 seconds or less to find shelter before rockets hit.
"They haven't put a dent in our lives" Hermesh said. "In spite of the hardships we still live our lives. It is the spirit of the Israeli not to give into terror. We won't give into terrorism. We still go and water our plants and continue to live everyday in spite of the rocket attacks".
Just this last week, over 25 missiles were fired at the Kubutz. All the homes and buildings in the Kubutz have shelters now to protect the residents from mortar shells and rockets. The Kubutz is not protected by the Iron Dome because the Iron Dome needs at least 2-3 miles to intercept a missile; the Kubutz is a mile from the border and is too short of a distance for the Iron Dome. "The only way to protect ourselves is simply by staying in a protective room and you can't stay for 3 weeks in a protective room," said Hermesh.
"For 12 years, there are children that are growing up in an environment that is under threat day and night," he stated. "Before they say mother and father, the children know how to count 15 seconds to escape to the protected shelters... many are suffering from post trauma. They have only seconds to make it to the bomb shelter."
"When the kids hear the alarm, they start crying. It is a traumatic experience, everyone is so traumatized," a local resident said. "Most kids won't go to the bathroom by themselves because they are afraid that something might happen."
A local resident that takes care of the cattle at another Kubutz three kilometers away from the border said that living under siege has been a way of life for the last 13 years: "This has been going on for 13 years. Hamas asked for a ceasefire but then they didn't honor it. The last operation was suppose to be a ceasefire but it is never a ceasefire, they are always launching rockets."
"What scares me the most are the tunnels, it scares the hell out of me" she said. "We just want peace and quiet and to stop getting bombed. They speak out clearly that they are trying to kill us. How can someone live this way?"
Hermesh told the story about how the IDF went into a private apartment in Gaza and opened a cabinet where they found an access to a tunnel underneath bottles. "The whole area of Gaza is covered with a network of underground tunnels with hundreds and hundreds of access points. Part are to transfer what they need and part are terrorist tunnels used to kidnap and kill solders and civilians in order to bring them back to Gaza," he said. "Soldiers are not in the Kubutz. We are unarmed, we are not soldiers, we are civilians." He said it is very possible for members of Hamas to penetrate into a Kubutz and kidnap Israelis to bring them to Gaza. There was an entry for a tunnel found 400 meters away from the Kubutz.
It is insanity for the Obama Administration to call for an immediate ceasefire without addressing the tunnels. The people of Israel are living under siege and in fear that members of Hamas could literally appear in their community to kidnap and kill them. Speaking to different Israelis, they have all expressed intense frustration over the United States' position. They feel that the Obama Administration is favoring Hamas, a terrorist organization, over their ally. Many can't understand how Secretary Kerry and the Obama Administration can undermine Egypt, Israel, and the PA and instead push the agenda of Qatar and Turkey. During an interview on Army radio, a top Israeli official said to "leave us alone," referring to the Obama Administration's pressure for an immediate ceasefire. Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel said an immediate ceasefire was "outrageous" and would "help Hamas".
"We never thought it would be the Americans who would lead the pressure," Ariel said.
There is a sense here on the ground that there has been an impact to shifts in diplomacy under the Obama administration that have benefited radical Islamist groups. Under President Obama, America is shifting from a foreign policy of supporting "free people and nations" to supporting coalitions that actually promote and support the global caliphate -- groups like rebels in Libya and Syria and nations like Qatar. New alliances are being made around the globe and America's policies are aligning on the wrong side: aiding the LIFG and Muslim Brotherhood in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi; supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and punishing the Sisi government; encouraging ceasefires in Gaza that benefit Hamas; negotiating with Qatar on the release of 5 top Taliban members while American troops are still on the battlefield.