Walking among the burned houses of Kfar Aza, an Israeli soldier shows a photo of Ofir Libstein, killed in the attack on the kibbutz by Hamas on October 7. The vision of this defender of peace "was also evident. “killed here,” he laments.
More than a month after the unprecedented deadly attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement on Israeli territory, which notably targeted kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, the smell of death still permeates the air of Kfar Aza.
Sixty-two people were killed in this collectivist agricultural village and 18 residents were taken hostage, according to a report provided by an Israeli military official during a visit to this organized local community. for the media.
In retaliation for the Hamas attack, the Israeli army shelled the Gaza Strip to “annihilate” the Palestinian Islamist movement.
Since October 7, Israeli bombings on the small territory have killed more than 11,000 people. dead, mainly civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health. On the Israeli side, at least 1,400 people died according to the authorities, the majority of them civilians killed on the day of the attack.
Among the victims in Kfar Aza were ardent advocates of peace with the Palestinians. Some kibbutzim along the border with Gaza were known to be strongholds of the Israeli left and to have peace activists.
Ofir Libstein, head of the regional council of the Gaza border communities, who was killed fighting Hamas shooters in Kfar Aza, according to his relatives, was one of them.
Bloodstains on the door of a room in the residence of Thai workers on Kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel after the October 7 attack by the movement Palestinian Hamas, photographed on November 9, 2023 © AFP – GIL COHEN-MAGEN
He defended an “economic peace” project in the hope of resolving the conflict that has pitted Israel against the Palestinians for decades, people close to him explain to AFP. He had a project to build a joint industrial zone along the border with the aim of creating jobs for thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where there are 2.4 million inhabitants.
“He strove to break the cycle of violence and hatred through kindness and humanity,” one of his acquaintances, Rabbi Nancy Myers, based in California.
The fact that “so many pro-peace Israelis who lived on the Gaza border” have been killed and kidnapped “will make peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis much more difficult,” she emphasizes.
– “Cruel irony” –
Major Nir Boms of the Israeli army, who accompanies the visit, claims that Gazans who received permits to work on agricultural land on the kibbutzim were involved in organizing the October 7 attack and provided intelligence to Hamas. AFP was unable to verify this claim.
Israeli soldiers and archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority sort through ashes from burned homes on Kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel to identify residents missing during the October 7 attack on Hamas activists , November 9, 2023 © AFP – GIL COHEN-MAGEN
“There is a cruel irony in Ofir's fate,” said Leon Goldsmith, of the University of Otago, New Zealand , who spoke with Mr. Libstein in July, during a university meeting. He had told her about his plans.
“Ofir and others in this region were well-intentioned” and offered “a more constructive path than the hardliners in the Israeli government,” Goldsmith told AFP.
So that they face strong criticism over the murderous war that the army is waging in Gaza, the Israeli authorities organized numerous visits to ravaged kibbutz for the international press on October 7.
The one in Kfar Aza was nominated by the Jerusalem Press Club and supervised by the army.
During the visit, the group had to take shelter when a siren announced imminent rocket fire. Army artillery fire on Gaza from surrounding positions shook the kibbutz.
Maayan, a 38-year-old woman whose parents were killed in Kfar Aza, said her anguish in the face of a polarized debate, in many countries, between “pro-Israelis” and “pro-Palestinians”.
“I am for peace”, she told the AFP, asking that his last name not be given. “My parents would have said the same thing.”
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