Residents of some Gaza border towns may be able to return in January, Gallant says

Defense minister stresses government will continue to support those unable to return home, both in the north and the south

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

Some residents of the Gaza border area, which was devastated in Hamas’s October 7 attacks, may be able to return home early next year, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday evening.

In a statement from his office, Gallant said a meeting was held with senior Defense Ministry officials on how to allow those living 4-7 kilometers away from the Gaza border to return home in early 2024 “following the rehabilitation of the towns and creation of the required security conditions.”

“Everyone who cannot return to his home will continue to receive full backing and support from the government,” he said. “It is very important to emphasize that our commitment to the residents of the north is just like our commitment to the residents of the south. We are fully committed to everyone.”

“We are working now to reach a situation in which some of the towns can return starting January 1, those at a distance of four to seven kilometers” from Gaza, Gallant added, saying that all security data is pointing at such a possibility.

On October 7, some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the Gaza border into southern Israel under the cover of thousands of rockets, and targeted more than 20 communities across the south of the country.

At least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the attacks, thousands more were wounded and some 240 people were taken hostage.

Some of the worst scenes of destruction occurred in Kibbutz Be’eri, Kibbutz Nir Oz and Kibbutz Kfar Aza. But the chaos extended far past the communities in the immediate vicinity of Gaza, reaching towns as far as 24 kilometers from the border, including the southern city of Ofakim, where over 40 people were murdered.

View of the destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, southern Israel, seen on October 15, 2023. (Edi Israel/Flash90)

While Kibbutz Kfar Aza is just over two kilometers away from the Gaza border and Kibbutz Nir Oz is even closer, at just 1.6 kilometers away from the border fence, Kibbutz Be’eri is roughly four kilometers away, meaning that residents of the devastated community could potentially return home, if they choose to.

But with over 10 percent of the community either killed or captured, some have expressed doubt that they could return there, even if it is deemed safe to do so.

In the wake of the October 7 attacks, ongoing rocket fire and repeated skirmishes with Hezbollah and Palestinian factions on the Lebanese border, around 105 communities from the south and north of Israel have been evacuated, and others have chosen to leave on their own, resulting in some 200,000 Israelis becoming internally displaced.

Of those evacuated, more than 60,000 have relocated to the southernmost city of Eilat, which itself only has a population of roughly 52,000 people.

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