ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Hundreds of soldiers waited outside Be’eri with terrorists still inside, survivor says

Yair Avital, a member of the kibbutz’s civilian security squad, who fought down to their last bullets, offers harrowing testimony of October 7 ordeal

Members of the tactical unit of the Yamas patrol in Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel, on October 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Members of the tactical unit of the Yamas patrol in Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel, on October 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces troops refused to engage terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7 and left members of the kibbutz to fight them off alone, amember of the community’s civilian security team recounted.

“The thing I remember the most, and the most traumatizing thing for me from this ordeal, was [being evacuated after hours of fighting and] arriving at the entrance to the kibbutz and seeing 500 soldiers stationed in an organized and orderly manner, standing and looking at us,” Yair Avital, one of the surviving members of the kibbutz’s security team, told Channel 12 in a segment aired on Wednesday, referring to the situation at 6.30 on the evening of the massacre.

Be’eri was one of the hardest-hit communities on that Saturday. More than 10 percent of its 1,200 residents were wiped out when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,400 people in southern towns, army bases and at a music festival, injuring more than 5,400 and taking at least 240 hostages.

Speaking to Channel 12 from the charred remains of the kibbutz, Avital and other surviving members of the security team recounted their ordeal and the way they say they were abandoned by the IDF.

By 7:30 a.m., less than an hour after the terrorists entered the kibbutz through its main entrance and through holes in the fence, two members of the security team were dead and another three were wounded, Avital recalled.

It was at that point that five police officers arrived at the scene for the first time, each with nothing more than a handgun. Realizing that they were ill-equipped, they withdrew to get more weapons. But as the scenes from Be’eri repeated themselves across the Gaza border communities, they were reassigned to other locations and didn’t return.

“You see it with your own eyes, you see terrorists pouring into the kibbutz. Truck after truck driving in here, probably under the influence of drugs,” survivor Elam Maor said. “They were an army with endless ammunition.”

Israeli soldiers walk past houses destroyed by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri, October 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

At 9 a.m., a first team of IDF soldiers arrived at the kibbutz, more than two hours after the first terrorists broke through the entrance gate. But the soldiers, a 14-member team from the elite Shaldag unit, were quickly overwhelmed and retreated back to the kibbutz entrance.

On Wednesday, walking through the dental clinic where medics treated the wounded and the security team fought until their bullets ran out on October 7, Avital told Channel 12 what he saw there that morning,

“At this point, Shahar and Eitan [from the security team] are fighting and we feel like we’re winning,” he recounted. “Every one of them who passed by, the guys here killed.”

Yair Avital, a member of the Kibbutz Be’eri civilian security team, returns home on November 1, 2023, for the first time since the Hamas massacre on October 7. (Channel 12 screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

But outside the clinic, fighting raged on, and the depleted security team continued to plead with the IDF for fighter planes and reinforcements.

It wasn’t until 1 p.m. that a squad of Shaldag soldiers returned, this time accompanied by a team from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit.

“They managed to make an impact for the first time; they were finally the force that managed to turn the tables a bit in the areas where they were positioned,” security team member Yuval Weiss said.

By 2 p.m., the feeling inside the clinic had changed. As fighting raged outside, a team of Hamas terrorists surrounded them, and the pilot of a fighter helicopter informed the team that he didn’t have permission to fire inside the kibbutz.

“At least eight grenades exploded in here and our ammunition had already run out,” Avital said as he walked through the decimated, bloodstained clinic.

“Shahar shouts at the terrorists in English, ‘I’m not your enemy, please, I’m not your enemy,'” he continues. “Another grenade is thrown, and Shahar is no longer with us.”

Trapped in the clinic and surrounded by bodies and his own blood, Avital played dead, holding his breath as the terrorists examined each body and executed anyone they thought might still be alive.

An Israeli man wearing a prayer shawl prays next to houses destroyed by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri, October 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

At 6:30 p.m., IDF troops finally arrived at the clinic, where Avital and the kibbutz nurse, Nirit, were the only survivors.

As he was evacuated from the kibbutz on a stretcher, Avital realized that he could no longer place his faith in the military, he told Channel 12.

“Five hundred IDF soldiers were outside, organized, with dogs, with equipment, weapons, and armored vehicles; they were standing outside and not a single one of them is doing anything,” he said.

“I remember shouting at them from the stretcher, ‘They’re slaughtering us! Go in! Save us!’ and none of them looked at me, none of them said anything.

“They kept repeating, ‘The field isn’t sterile, the field isn’t sterile,'” he continued, explaining that the insistence that the area needed to be “sterile” before soldiers could go in was a sign that none of them understood what was happening inside the kibbutz.

“No one understood that the well-known and familiar combat doctrine of the Israel Defense Forces no longer exists,” Avital said. “People here were losing blood every minute, and the army was out there, and didn’t understand what was happening, and it broke my heart.”

The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 14, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

It took the IDF two days to complete the evacuation of Kibbutz Be’eri and to ensure that no terrorists remained. Prior to the October 7 massacre, the kibbutz was the largest community of the 25 that make up the Eshkol Regional Council.

In the days following the massacre, 108 bodies were retrieved from the kibbutz, and dozens of people were determined to have been taken to Gaza as hostages.

Multiple scenes of atrocities were recorded by the invading terrorists in Be’eri that day, including scenes of civilians begging for mercy as they were executed and of mutilated families being burned alive inside their homes.

The kibbutz, whose establishment predates that of the State of Israel by two years,  has emerged as a symbol of the attack because of its size, and the scale and level of documentation of the killings perpetrated there.

Almost a month has passed since October 7, and Avital still can’t sleep, he told Channel 12 as he sat with the other survivors of his once-strong civilian security team.

“As soon as you close your eyes, so many things appear,” he said. “There’s no bush and no rock that I don’t imagine, what if had gone this way or maybe that way, we could have changed things and maybe saved another family.”

Canaan Lidor contributed to this report.

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