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I realized that if we stayed there, we would die

  • Agam Y.'s story

In that explosion I felt that I experienced a kind of death

My 7th October.

We arrived together at the party. Itamar (my boyfriend), Alon, Segev, Ayelet (Itamar's friends) and me, at around 05:30. We split up and I went to be with my friends who had arrived in a separate car, from the south. The party was on as planned. Everything was fine.

Some time passed when I was talking to Gefen (one of my friends), and she told me that she was receiving many messages on the Israel Emergency Information app that there were “Red Alert” sirens (meaning sirens announcing missiles from the Gaza Strip). Suddenly we started to hear rockets launching and saw them above us. This all happened about an hour after we arrived at the party.

I immediately called Itamar and asked where he was. He was already headed my way with our friends. I saw him, hung up, and we started walking towards the car. My phone accidentally dialed my mother, without me noticing, and woke her up. She immediately called back and asked why I called. I told her that there were alarms and rockets here and that we were going to try and drive away from the area.

rockets launching over NOVA party

I took a picture of the Iron Dome interceptions and people running to send to a friend. Today I found out that someone that picture was with me in the shelter later on. We all got back in the car and drove towards the main road; it was chaotic because all of the people were trying to flee. Finally we reached the main road and we wanted to head north. Policemen were blocking the road to the north so we could only drive south.

After driving for a while I said that there is a bus stop and a Migunit (a small, doorless concrete shelter found along the roads near the Gaza Strip) at the Kibbutz Re'im intersection. I thought it was wisest to wait in the shelter so that the missiles wouldn’t hit us and things would calm down. I never imagined a scenario in which hundreds of terrorists would penetrate the border and murder, rape, behead, burn and injure thousands of civilians.

We entered the shelter and slowly many more people started to arrive. When we heard a siren we entered the shelter, and when it was quiet we went back outside. I said to myself, "I can't believe that the residents of the Otef (the Gaza Envelope, towns and villages bordering the Gaza Strip) live like this all their lives here". We were in a good mood; we laughed and connected a bit.

"There was a very friendly local Muslim with us at the shelter who had recently arrived. He was patrolling the area, and said that there was probably a terrorist infiltration."

Suddenly we started hearing gunshots from the direction of Gaza, and we didn't understand what was happening. There was a very friendly local Muslim with us at the shelter who had recently arrived. He was patrolling the area, and said that there was probably a terrorist infiltration.

Someone came to the shelter and told us that his aunt had called him and told him not to continue driving south because there are terrorists shooting at all of the vehicles. That's when we realized that we needed to enter the Migunit itself. There were two wasps' nests, dirt, trash and human feces inside. A few minutes later, a Nahal soldier from the Orev Unit named Aner (pronounced Ah-ner) arrived and said his friends told him that there were terrorists infiltrating the border, but that everything would be alright and that they were relatively far off. He also said that the Re’im army base isn't far away and it is one of the largest bases in the country so we should try to remain calm. "So why are we hearing the shots so close?" I asked. Aner answered that they were shooting in an open area, so they sounded relatively close.

I tried to stay optimistic. More time passed and then suddenly he said that they were getting closer, at the next left turn on the road heading south. He was in touch with a few friends from his unit.

We all huddled in the shelter as tightly as we could. There were around twenty five people in that small space. I was in the far left corner of the shelter and Itamar was next to me. We heard terrorists approaching on foot, by motorcycle and by truck, shooting and shouting.

Aner being EXTREMELY BRAVE and one of the closest to the entrance took upon himself the task that if they threw grenades inside, he would try to throw as many back out, and asked that those who were also near to be ready to throw them as well, in case he couldn't throw all of them by himself. From the moment I heard the voices of the terrorists, I sat down on the floor and closed my eyes and shut my ears. Itamar asked someone who was right on top of me to get off me because she was choking me.

We now realized that something bad was going to happen. I whispered "Shhhhh" to myself the entire time to calm my heart, which was racing at two hundred beats per minute. We tried to stay as quiet as possible, in that shelter full of people. We heard the terrorists approaching the entrance and someone said, "Start saying the Shema Yisrael prayer".

"I heard the Muslim guy rush out and shout to them "I’m a Muslim, I’m a Muslim, don't hurt them!" There was shouting between them and I don't know what happened to him."

Then I heard the Muslim guy who was with us rush out and shout to them "I’m a Muslim, I’m a Muslim, don't hurt them!" There was shouting between them and I don't know what happened to him. The terrorists started throwing grenades, stun grenades (flash bangs), and even shot an RPG into the Migunit. Some of the stun grenades exploded inside the shelter and everything was kind of in slow motion; some of the blasts occurred near the entrance, some right outside the entrance. Some people did manage to throw some of them out. I kept saying to myself "I don't want to die, I don't want to die".

This went on while about 8-11 grenades were being thrown. Aner exhibited some of the craziest instincts and bravest acts possible and threw most of them back out, including a regular explosive grenade. Another one or two people threw grenades out. But then one exploded inside.

In that explosion I felt like I experienced a kind of death. I felt my body was turning into a small creature, as if someone was folding me into myself, and that I was being sucked into a black space. I didn't hear or see anything but I felt peaceful and just wondered about what happens in death, and when would the part come where my life passes before me. I literally felt my body stop, I didn't feel any heartbeats. I heard voices in my head that sounded like spirits whispering things to me, I felt that I no longer had a body, everything shrank into nothing. I saw and felt a big spot rise up from the top of my head. It felt like my soul.

Suddenly I could hear Itamar echoing in my head and telling me, "Stay with me, stay with me." I told him, "Itamar, I'm dying." He told me, "You're not, you're here with me." When I asked him, "Can you hear me?" he said "Yes, beautiful, we’re okay." I told him again "I can't hold on, I'm dying". He repeated again, the words, “You’re with me, stay with me”. I told him, "I'm afraid that if I come back now, I won't go back to being who I am.” Itamar barely heard me say this and just asked me to be with him. Then I felt my soul return. I opened my eyes and saw nothing but orange dust.

"I don't remember what happened first - the kidnapping or the shooting massacre. I think it was the kidnapping."

There was a lot of screaming and people who were killed or severely injured. Someone screamed that one woman had no hand. I closed my eyes again. And again, we heard terrorists coming in, yelling. I don't remember what happened first - the kidnapping or the shooting massacre. I think the kidnapping. They took people, dragged them and told them to get out.

People shouted back that they didn't want to go and tried to fight them. They tried to speak to them in Arabic and English. They said "Salaam" to them and, "Please no". I tried to keep as low a profile as possible. One of the girls they took was returned to the shelter later on because they didn't have room for her on the truck and she ended up surviving. Later, I found out that our friend Alon was taken hostage.

After that, the terrorists came in and shot everywhere. I tried to shrink as much as I could and play dead. I opened my eyes again to make sure that Itamar was alive and that he was near me. Itamar told me, "My beautiful, I have a bullet in my hand" and immediately pressed onto the open wound, without thinking twice, no matter how much it hurt, to stop the bleeding. During all of this, rockets were still falling outside and terrorists were still shooting. People were shouting, bleeding and dying.

“Rockets were still falling outside and terrorists were still shooting. People were shouting, bleeding and dying.”

Itamar was shot by a bullet that pierced his arm from one side to the other. I was shot in the leg by a bullet that had probably hit a wall or someone in front of me, so there was a hole in my leg, but not too big. I took off all my jewelry because I remembered something to do with the fact that you shouldn't wear jewelry in such cases, but the jewelry had already burned me. I only forgot to take off the bracelet my mother gave me before I joined the army, because I never take it off. It also burned me, but I'm glad it remained on my arm.

After that we tried to stay as quiet as possible so that the terrorists would not come back and kill us. Every time we heard voices outside the shelter, we lowered our heads under the bodies and played dead. I removed the blood from my face, took my shirt off and tore it with my teeth. I tried to make Itamar a tourniquet but I'm not skilled enough at that and the shirt tore. Itamar pressed on his wound as much as he could. At first we thought he only had one hole in his hand, but later we realized there were two. Throughout it all, there were bodies on our feet that prevented us from moving. Our friends and most of the people we had talked and laughed with just a few moments earlier were now lying next to us.

“At first, the police didn't believe us. Next they said they couldn’t help us. Then they said they were coming and it gave us some hope. But they never came.״

At this stage, Itamar could barely hear because of all of the explosions. For many hours, every time we heard someone approaching, we tried to figure out if they were coming into the shelter or just walking outside. We heard dozens of terrorists approaching, talking and shouting. The five people who were closest to the exit of the shelter had cellular reception and they tried to call friends and the police for help. They called the police about twenty times. At first the police didn't believe us, next they said they couldn’t help us. Then they said they were coming and it gave us some hope, but they never came. There was so much going on all around us that we didn't know about. We just tried to be as quiet as possible so that the terrorists outside would not get in.

Our legs were under bodies and I was sure I had lost my leg. Later when I was able to move it, I realized that I did have a leg and what I thought to be my leg was actually a part of someone else’s corpse that was on top of me. After a few hours we heard a large vehicle approaching and people got out. We heard ambulance sirens and someone yelling, "This is Magen David Adom!" (Israeli Red Cross). They split into two teams to scan everything. We heard someone say, "Don't shoot at anything that moves because there might be people and vehicles of our own here." We unanimously agreed that we would not leave the shelter in case they were not really Israeli.

A moment after that we started hearing gunshots. I don't know if it was shots from terrorists or from the Israel Defense Forces, but the shots always came from the direction of the Migunit. We waited ten minutes, then another twenty. Time didn’t move and no one came. During this time we tried to stay optimistic and to take deep breaths; to smile at each other. We had no water at all, the water bottles we had exploded from the gunshots. Itamar and I held his wound tight and stopped the bleeding every time it started again.

"I saw no reason why they wouldn't come to verify a kill. After all, they want to kill as many of us as possible."

After another hour or so we heard someone from outside say, "Brother, do you have a car?" and his friend answering "I can't find the keys" in the most Israeli accent possible. We still didn't allow ourselves to go out because we were afraid that they weren't really Israeli. After about twenty minutes we heard two people talking in Arabic; it was probably them. I kept trying to think like a warrior, what would a warrior do at a moment like this? I thought about my brother and tried to get into the terrorists' head, and I saw no reason why they wouldn't come to verify a kill. After all, they want to kill as many of us as possible.

A few hours later, Itamar told me that he thought his phone was under me somewhere. I looked under myself and found it. I took it and it was full of blood. I cleaned it with our clothes, but there was no reception for a long time. We didn't understand what was happening outside, complete helplessness and lack of information about the situation. I was sure that if I went out of the shelter, I would find myself in Hamas occupied territory.

Suddenly, for a second, the phone started receiving messages. Messages from concerned people who thought we were safe in Tze’elim or Sa’ad, based on false lists that had been distributed. We couldn't respond because there was no reception, but we sent messages and snapshots to my mother and to Itamar's father and friends from the army, along with personal information, so that if by chance the messages got through, they would understand that it was us and not Hamas. We asked whoever was closest to the entrance of the shelter to hold the phone for a few minutes but the messages were not sent.

We tried again, and after a few minutes our messages started going through. Many people, friends of Itamar's, mine, and our families asked where we were and asked us to send a location. It was difficult to send a location because there wasn't much reception and we couldn't talk on the phone because we were afraid the terrorists outside would hear us. People inside didn't want us to talk on the phone either.

We tried to explain that we were trying to get us all rescued. All the while, dozens of cars were passing by us. We occasionally heard single shots and many loud booms and Red Alert sirens. We tried to send our location to as many people as possible, to explain our position and the number of people there. At some point, I heard a woman scream. I think it came from the kibbutz.

While this was happening, I heard strange sounds from outside, of someone walking by the entrance of the shelter or of some animal that sounded like they were tearing up newspapers or dragging branches and trees to the entrance of the shelter. At that moment, I told Itamar that I was afraid they were going to set us all on fire. So every second counted.

Agam and Itamar bloody and hiding

After another half an hour or so, a car arrived and then we heard footsteps. We did what we had been doing when we heard footsteps, which was to play dead. Then it was quiet for a second. Next, we saw a hand slip in to insert a phone into the shelter but quickly take it out in case there were terrorists inside. Then he peaked in, and asked if anyone was here. We raised our heads, and we all started crying.

"The entire shelter was full of grenades, corpses, blood and body parts; there was a terrible smell and so many flies."

There were seven survivors from Migunit that that I know of, including Itamar and myself. I think that only Itamar and I were injured and all five other survivors were not seriously injured physically, but I'm sure they are scarred mentally. Everyone who was able to walk left the shelter on foot. The entire shelter was full of grenades, corpses, blood and body parts; there was a terrible smell and so many flies. We didn't know if the grenades could explode at any moment or if they had already exploded.

I couldn’t get up along with another girl. My leg hurt terribly from the impact of the bullet. I managed to get my leg out from under the bodies but I couldn’t stand, and another survivor’s legs were under bodies too. I held her hand and told her that we are here together and everything is fine. While this was happening, we heard gunshots outside and were afraid that they were shooting at us again and that we would not get out of here alive.

Eli (pseudonym), a civilian, and someone else, a colonel, said it would all be fine.

The colonel lifted me into the car; I was topless. He immediately gave me a shirt and a towel to cover myself. When they took us out of there, I didn't look left or right. My eyes were only on the vehicle. They drove us to a gas station at the Be’eri intersection where survivors and other wounded people were gathered. While driving, I asked Eli if there was a terrorist there when they arrived or if it was one of our soldiers. He said it was a terrorist. It was such a good thing that we didn't leave when we heard them speak Hebrew.

"He said it was a terrorist. It was such a good thing that we didn't leave when we heard them speak Hebrew."

All along the way, we saw cars with open doors and dead bodies next to them. I felt like I was in a horror movie. When we arrived at the gathering point, a gas station at the Be'eri Junction, they told