The violent upheaval between Hamas and the Israeli military has intensified in recent days, plunging the city of Ashkelon into a scene of chaos and horror. Located less than 15 kilometres from the Gaza Strip, Ashkelon has transformed from a peaceful community to the very frontlines of an escalating war zone.
A City Under Siege
According to CBC News, the emergency department at the Barzilai Medical Centre in Ashkelon has become a sanctuary amidst the relentless missile attacks from both sides. The constant hum of artillery and missile fire is juxtaposed with the occasional sirens from Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, a stark reminder of the looming threats.
The streets of Ashkelon are now eerily quiet, with most of its 150,000 residents taking refuge in their homes. The evidence of recent rocket strikes is clear, with new impact craters appearing daily in residential neighbourhoods.
Harrowing Survivor Accounts
Raz Cohen, a 24-year-old Ashkelon resident, recounted to CBC News the terrifying moment when Hamas militants stormed the Supernova music festival. “It was something like 200 people that ran away in the open area — and they shot at all of us,” Cohen revealed. His chilling recollection paints a graphic scene: “I saw people get shot in the head, in the leg, in the shoulder. They died before my eyes.”
Although the death toll at the festival is estimated at 260, Cohen, who hid motionless in a forested area for six hours during the attack, fears the number could be even higher. “We have forgiven them (Hamas) for many problems. But this is not a problem we can forgive them for. We need to attack and attack strongly,” he expressed.
Medical Workers Bear Witness
“Welcome to hell. I have never seen such brutality,” remarked Dr. Tomer Aaronson, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Barzilai Medical Centre, echoing Cohen’s sentiment. In an interview with CBC News, he described the heart-wrenching scenes of entire families being butchered in their homes.
With the number of gunshot victims slowly decreasing, Dr. Aaronson took a moment to reflect, foreseeing a long-lasting trauma for the nation. “This is going to take decades (to get past),” he stated.
Civilians in The Crossfire
In Gaza, health authorities have reported an alarming number of casualties due to Israel’s bombing, with over 500 killed and 2,700 injured. According to witnesses on the ground, the Israeli response has been the most ferocious air assault they’ve ever experienced.
Amidst this backdrop, CBC News encountered 57-year-old Osnat Yofan Shriki in the hospital, injured by a Hamas rocket that struck near her apartment building. Shriki’s perspective encapsulated the sentiments of many: “It wasn’t soldiers (they killed). It was civilians — people like us. Mothers and children.”
The Uncertain Future
Despite the devastation, Ashkelon’s residents, like Shriki, strive to remain hopeful, envisioning a future where they live in peace. However, the current circumstances cast a shadow of doubt over such hopes.