Residents of Kfar Aza, emptied of children, speak

Kfar Aza, a kibbutz on the frontline of cross-border tunnels, was emptied of all its children during Israel’s war on Hamas militants in Gaza.

Its 250 children were evacuated along with many families, leaving behind a few dozen adults in the collective farming village which usually boasts a population of 750 inhabitants.

Homes were shuttered, playgrounds left empty and silent, with the only noise coming from Israeli bombardment of Gaza and rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory.

“We were used to rockets and shells, but these tunnels, from which terrorists can emerge, really frighten us,” says kibbutz spokesman Noam Stahl.

During a walk in the empty streets, Stahl points out the damage caused by 12 mortar rounds that struck his community, including one which hit a reinforced wall around the local kindergarten.

“We demand that the government protect us. We are very disappointed that after so many years Israel has not found a solution,” says Stahl.

Another diehard local who refused to leave his home during the four-week conflict is 77-year-old Israel Degany, a founder of Kfar Azar and resident of 57 years.

“This is my house and I have no intention to leave but I am afraid for the children. How can parents live with such a danger that can rise from the earth at any time,” he says.

Degany says that for the past 14 years, mortar rounds have often struck the kibbutz.

“But now it is different. I would like this to be the last military operation but I don’t believe it will be.”

Doron says he is realistic about the ceasefire. “I would like to be optimistic but it’s difficult now to believe we’re going to find the way to peace again,” he says.

“The Palestinians used to come work here and we shopped there. I don’t think things can go back to what they were but at least we can stop killing each other.”


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