Babies beheaded, grandparents slain and families torn apart – the full horror of ‘Israel’s 9/11‘ was starting to emerge last night.
Hamas gunmen massacred 40 children in one farm settlement alone, their small bodies lying in their rooms riddled with bullets.
And as shellshocked survivors told their stories, one bereaved grandson, Shmuel Harel, told me: ‘They are the new Nazis. This was a holocaust, pure and simple.’
He said his terrified 90-year-old grandmother’s last moments were being dragged into her living room and shot twice in the head.
A sobbing Israeli woman said she had to listen in helpless horror as her 12-year-old autistic daughter was kidnapped while clinging desperately to her grandmother.
As vengeful Israel unleashes hell in military retaliation, stunned survivors are gathering at refugee hotels a safe distance from the front line – where they weep.
Last night at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel on the Dead Sea, dozens were sat in the lobby and coffee shop, some carrying photos of loved ones butchered or kidnapped.
Galit Dan, 53, told how her daughter Noya, 12, went off for a sleepover with her grandmother Carmela, 80. As the sickening attack unfolded, Noya sent a harrowing voice message to her mother, whispering: ‘Mummy, I’m scared. There are people in the house. Help me.’
Her mother said: ‘These animals came for them. We have heard nothing from them and their bodies have not been found among the dead, so we believe they have been taken. I am living every parent’s nightmare – every parent in the world will feel our pain.’
Hamas terrorists beheaded babies and gunned down entire families in their homes in the Kfar Aza kibbutz, the Israeli military said. Bodies there litter the streets among burnt-out houses, strewn furniture and torched cars.
Yesterday Israeli soldiers going house to house removing the dead raged that innocents were killed ‘not in war, not a battlefield, but in their beds’.
At nearby Kisufim kibbutz, a settlement of 375 peace-loving souls tending to avocado trees and herds of dairy cows, horror was unleashed at 6.20am on Saturday as the grenade-lobbing Hamas terrorists swept in. Kibbutz resident Mr Harel, 33, told me: ‘They came to kill, and to abuse, and to desecrate. They came to my grandmother’s house. She was 90.’ Jina Semiaitz, who had lived on the kibbutz since she was a young woman, had heard the shots and gone into her armoured shelter, but did not lock the door, he said.
Brimming with anger, her grandson said: ‘She was terrified and confused, and doesn’t hear very well, and she didn’t realise what was going on.
‘She was the sweetest old lady, and they pulled her out of her shelter and dragged her to her living room.
‘They shot her twice in the head. A 90-year-old – what possible harm could she do them? Then they went to her 71-year-old cousin, Ofer Ron, and shot him too in exactly the same way. These are the new Nazis.’
The Hamas terrorists continued their sick manhunt throughout the communal farm. Mr Harel said: ‘An 80-year-old man was handcuffed behind his back.
‘They shoved him on to the back seat and kidnapped him in his own car. We don’t know what has happened to him or if he is still alive.
‘There was a family – a mother, father and 15-year-old boy. They hid in their shelter. So the terrorists set fire to their house.
‘They torched it, ransacked it and took food from the fridge. The family burnt to death. Can you imagine the terror of their final moments together?
‘My friend saw the fire and tried to help but it was too ferocious. He managed to rescue the 80-year-old woman next door, in her wheelchair.’
Mr Harel, who is a business consultant, said: ‘We live on a kibbutz. It is peace-loving. But these people behaved like Nazis, like Isis.
‘They killed and then they abused the bodies. We need the world to know what happened in Kisufim Kibbutz so it never happens anywhere ever again.’
At the Leonardo Plaza, Mr Harel and some 300 survivors from Kisufim – half a mile from the Gaza fence, and lying close to the outdoor festival where hundreds were massacred – huddle together in groups after being evacuated.
The Israeli government is funding their stay in the hotel, which is more used to welcoming tourists visiting the Dead Sea, the nearby salt lake famous for its rejuvenating mud treatments.
Nothing like that can help. Across the hotel lobby where I am writing this, a grandmother sobs as a younger woman tenderly strokes her arm. A group of parents are angrily swapping horror stories, jabbing the air with their fingers. Others just hug silently. But all around, children are gleefully chasing each other apparently oblivious to the fury and drama.
And in a surreal juxtaposition, two clowns recently showed up in brightly coloured bobble hats to entertain the youngsters, while a flautist is performing a calming melody. Every so often, locals arrive bearing cardboard boxes of donated clothes and toys – filling the hotel’s restaurant.
Benny Hason, a 66-year-old veteran of the kibbutz, goes around consoling people table by table. He said: ‘They were stalking outside our houses, shouting ‘Slaughter the Jews’ in Arabic and firing guns and shotguns.
‘They were throwing grenades into people’s houses. Most people had got into their shelters and locked the doors – but the terrorists were trying to blast open the doors with their bombs. Not everyone was lucky. Today our community is smaller.’