Noam and Ahova Ivri Adanani were hosting their family members in their home in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Oct. 7 when Palestinian attackers breached the nearby Gaza-Israel barrier, carrying out an unprecedented assault that has turned into an ongoing conflict.
The morning of Oct. 7 came at the end of the Jewish Sabbath day and the conclusion of the Sukkot holiday. At 6:30 a.m. local time, the family was awoken by the sound of rocket fire pouring over from Gaza.
“Every house in Israel, or new houses at least like ours, have a safe room that’s rocket proof, and you shut your windows and everything,” Mr. Adanani explained in an interview on NTD News’ “Capitol Report” on Thursday.
Recounting the attack, Mr. Adanani said once his family had gathered inside the safe room, they turned to their phones and television to watch for updates on the attacks. He and his wife have experienced rocket attacks before, but Mr. Adanani said this time was different.
“We see there’s a lot more rockets than usual, so we suspect something’s not good here. Something’s very different, and bad things are coming,” he said. “And then within the next hour, we see videos of an armed terrorist squad on a pickup truck with rifles, RPGs, head bands.”
Mr. Adanani soon noticed the familiar scenery in the background of the videos circulating of Hamas gunmen. They had crossed over from Gaza and were in his town.
“We recognized the scenery around the main traffic circle; everything around there looks the same,” he said. “So we suspect that this is not like a propaganda video.”
In the hours that followed, Mr. Adanani and his family waited in their safe room, listening to the sounds of the battle outside. They heard gunfire as Hamas terrorists attacked a nearby police station. Later on, there was the sound of airstrikes.
“We hear rumors about them taking the Israeli soldiers’ uniforms and pretending to be soldiers and knocking on the doors to kidnap people or kill them,” he said. “And there’s a lot of panic. We don’t have any firearms in our house. All we would have would be kitchen knives, or God knows what else.”
Mr. Adanani estimated that it took seven or eight hours before he knew with certainty that the people patrolling near his home in Israeli uniforms were actually on “our side and not the other side.”
While the arrival of Israeli forces brought some measure of reassurance, Mr. Adanani said rockets continued to fly in from Gaza, forcing him and his family to repeatedly return to their safe room.
“It was about 60 hours, or two and a half days, until we were even allowed out of the house to do limited grocery shopping,” he said.
As of Oct. 12, five days after the Hamas attacks, the Israeli government has assessed at least 1,300 people have been killed inside Israel. Many more have been wounded, and others remain unaccounted for.
On Oct. 11, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at least 22 Americans were among the dead, and another 17 are unaccounted for.
‘Nobody’s Staying in Sderot’
Ahova Adanani said the people of her hometown have long been wary of the threat posed by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by both the Israeli and U.S. governments.
Hamas has been active since 1987 and has exercised control over Gaza since 2007. Fighting across the Israel-Gaza barrier has been a regular occurrence in that time.
“We have to, like, always, you know, watch for Hamas because Hamas, they play with us, they always send rockets all the time,” Mrs. Adanani said.
This latest round of violence may have proven too much for some in Sderot.
“Nobody’s staying in Sderot. Everybody left because the situation is really, really bad. It’s really bad,” Mrs. Adanani said.
Since the attack, she and her family have relocated to an area near the Dead Sea.
Israelis ‘United Like Never Before’
Israeli military forces have conducted extensive retaliatory strikes throughout Gaza as part of what they’ve dubbed “Operation Swords of Iron.” Israeli forces have also blockaded the territory, cutting off the flow of water, electricity, fuel, and food to the city.
“I think the government and the people are now united like never before, whether it’s left wing, right wing, religious, secular, everyone agrees we have to overthrow the Hamas regime that was existing there that was causing this terrorism,” Mr. Adanani said.
He added that this latest round of fighting has caused him to doubt the idea of peaceful coexistence with the Palestinian people.
“We tried for so many years to live in peace and coexistence. We used to take Gazan workers prior to this conflict that were working in Israel, making a lot of money, helping their families. We wanted to have goodwill gestures, pragmatic cooperation—none of that worked,” he said. “These are people that have made it very clear, and I’m not exaggerating when I say they would like another holocaust against Jews.”
Many Palestinian fighters, including members of Hamas, contend that Israel is behaving as an occupying force. Hamas has said its attacks, dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” are in response to this occupation and clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas has also cited concerns about Israelis building settlements in contested areas to justify retaliation.
As of Thursday, Gaza’s health ministry has assessed more than 1,200 Gazans have been killed as a result of Israeli strikes, and more than 5,700 others have been wounded. The United Nations has also placed the number of Gaza residents displaced by the Israeli strikes at around 263,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.