KFAR AZA, Israel — Six body bags lay next to three children’s bicycles in the kibbutz of Kfar Aza Tuesday, where Hamas terrorists massacred more than 100 civilians during the weekend’s devastating assault that killed over 1,000 people in the south of the country.
Foreign media personnel were given a tour of Kfar Aza and reported that the Palestinian attackers in some cases decapitated their victims.
When the Palestinian gunmen stormed the kibbutz, they set fire to several homes in what had been a bustling community “to force their occupants to come out,” said Omar Barak, a 24-year-old Israeli army officer.
“But many preferred to die in the fires… than be killed by the terrorists,” he said of the wave of Hamas terrorists who infiltrated southern Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip in a predawn attack on Saturday.
“We have found many bodies inside the homes,” he said.
A reporter from i24 News said that an IDF commander told her that they had found the bodies of about 40 babies, some of whom had been beheaded.
The Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel and slaughtered several hundred civilians in a series of border towns and communities. Some 1,500 gunmen invaded after breaching the Gaza Strip border fence and then rampaged murderously for hours.
The death toll in Israel from the attack and subsequent battles rose to 1,000 by Tuesday, according to reports. Over 500 people remained hospitalized, many with life-threatening injuries, and over 2,900 have been injured since Saturday. The terrorists also kidnapped about 150 men, women and children and dragged them into Gaza before the army was able to engage the attackers. Hamas also launched over 5,000 rockets at Israel and has continued to bombard southern and central areas, causing more deaths and injuries.
The Kfar Aza farming community is located just two kilometers (about a mile) from Gaza, which Israel bombarded relentlessly on Tuesday in retaliation for the worst attack on its territory in decades.
Barak was among the Israeli forces who fought the assailants for two long days to take back control of Kfar Aza.
“I had never seen anything worse. I broke down when I saw the bodies of two children assassinated,” he said.
Retired Israeli major general Itai Veruv said he had been in shock seeing “all the bodies of the civilians… the dead children,” adding it was “a big massacre, a big disaster.”
Residents of Kfar Aza were used to tensions and violence involving Palestinians, but chose to live close to the Gaza Strip.
Some believed they had to maintain an Israeli presence near the coastal enclave, even after Israel withdrew its troops from there in 2005, while others had made their homes there because it was cheaper than elsewhere in Israel.
‘Wave after wave of fighters’
The bodies of Palestinian assailants were sprawled on the ground of the kibbutz Tuesday, some still wearing their thin black bulletproof vests.
A smell of death permeated the air.
According to Veruv, Israeli forces fought “wave after wave of Hamas terrorists” in Kfar Aza.
There were “70 terrorists fully armed, fully skilled,” he said.
“In 40 years of service I saw many difficult things, but never something like this,” Veruv added.
About 400 people lived in Kfar Aza, where several Israeli soldiers questioned by AFP said more than 100 civilians had been killed. Some even advanced the figure of 150.
In one part of the kibbutz, where residents had kept the lawns tidy outside their modest homes, lay the ruins of a motorized glider used by the attackers to fly over the border fence between Israel and Gaza..
Residents’ belongings lay scattered on the ground, including a damaged scooter, a destroyed truck near a grain silo and a pink helmet.
A businessman from Tel Aviv and army reservist who declined to be named said he came to help the Israeli forces battle the terrorists and regain control of communities around Gaza.
“All I want is peace. It is the only solution… but you cannot have peace with Hamas” after what happened, he added.
Veruv, the retired officer, said: “Now it is time to fight, and we will fight for a long time.”
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says over 700 people in the Palestinian enclave have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes. Israel says it is targeting terrorist infrastructure and all areas where Hamas operates or hides out.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have pledged to ensure Hamas can never again muster the capacity to harm Israel, stating that the terror group’s demise is critical to Israel’s future, with Netanyahu comparing the atrocities against Israeli civilians on Saturday to the actions of Islamic State.
“This war was imposed upon us by a despicable enemy — by savages who celebrate the murder of women, children, and the elderly,” Netanyahu said on Monday night.
“The atrocities carried out by Hamas have not been seen since the atrocities of ISIS. Children bound and executed with the rest of their families, young girls and boys shot in the back, executed, and other atrocities that I will not describe here.”