‘I stared Hamas in the face as they shot my village to pieces

Since the war between Israel and Hamas began on Saturday, thousands of civilians have been killed and millions of innocent people put in harm’s way.

Some have been killed by airstrikes whilst others, many of them young people, have been shot by troops on the ground.

Those who have survived have been left traumatised and forever scarred by the horrors they endured.

One of these people is Celine Ben David whose neighbourhood came under direct attack by members of Hamas on October 7.

She told the Express how she and her family came face-to-face with Hamas forces in Netiv HaAsara, southern Israel, near Gaza’s northern border.

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She said: “I’m sleeping in my room which is also the Mamad (residential secure space) and I feel like my room is going to explode any second from the number of rockets and explosions that I’m hearing.

“My sister started having a panic attack and I was trying to keep calm. I’m strong and I can get through this. I’m inside the Mamad – a safe and secure space. I gave my sister a relaxing pill and believed everything was going to be okay.”

She added: “A few minutes go by, and I hear gunshots. Silence inside the room and only wondering faces: ‘Gunshots? Why are there gunshots? It can’t be’. At first, I told myself there was no way these were terrorists, it just couldn’t be what I think it is. I truly believed I was imagining, there weren’t any shots. Up until then, I felt under control.

“A few minutes later I’m taking my mom’s phone, going into the Moshav group chat and reading the following message: ‘They are inside my property, they tried to open the door, hurry help me, with green scarves around their heads and weapons’.”

Celine went on to describe how she had her first ever panic attack, that she couldn’t breathe as she began to process how she might be about to die.

She described how the family decided to try and shelter from the bombardment, the gunfire, and the militants.

She said: “We took knives knowing this isn’t going to help us. The terrorist with poisoned eyes, and us, terrified with knives. This is a war with a predetermined end. We waited inside the Mamad for hours, patiently waiting to get murdered!

“We placed a refrigerator against the door, a sofa against the other door, and throughout it all I’m taking my mom’s phone and reading messages such as ‘there are weird noises from our yard’, ‘people are speaking Arabic through the connection, come quick’, ‘they are inside our house!’

“I realise it is our neighbours, it is a matter of a few minutes, and it is the end of my story in this world. My sister took over and said it is better to get killed by a rocket than to get murdered by a terrorist. We decided to get out of the Mamad and go hide.

“We hear gunshots from our neighbourhood and realise our Moshav is being slaughtered, my home is bleeding and I’m helpless. My worst-case scenario is actually happening.”

After hiding for a time, Celine and her family decided to try and drive out of the area to get away from Hamas. As they were preparing to leave, she made a horrifying discovery.

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She said: “While packing, I find out that Netta, my friend, had been murdered. My Neta who I love so much.

“He was in his apartment with his girlfriend, terrorists threw a grenade into the apartment and it was on fire. He had to get out and was shot to death.

“Still trying to process it, I’m walking towards the car. At the driveway I hear a stream of gunshots, being automatically fired a few metres away from me. My dad told me to get into the car and to drive as fast as possible.”

She added: “Those two minutes of driving through the Moshav felt like forever, praying for my life knowing there were terrorists out there. Looking back, I now realise I was passing by houses full of dead bodies and the gunshots I heard were my neighbours being murdered.

“The entire way we see fire … we stopped at a gas station and above us I see rockets, I run like crazy to a public shelter at the station where my fourth panic attack starts.”

Celine said: “I didn’t believe I would make it alive, I was waiting, expecting to be murdered and by a miracle survived. What I experienced on Saturday changed my life and I don’t know if I’m ever going to recover.

“We arrived in Netanya, where my friend’s family has been hosting us. I cannot stop crying. I cannot mentally bring myself into responding to all 150 people who sent me messages, I can’t understand the dimension of what’s been happening.

“The next day I wake up to find out that another friend of mine, a brother-like friend, the most special person I have ever met, had probably been murdered as well. Up until now I am waiting for someone to tell me this was all a dream and that none of this was real. I’m waiting to hear he is still alive, though I know it is probably not true.

“I am broken, crushed, I am not emotionally available to anything, I started therapy, I don’t know how I am going to be from now on. My life is divided into two – before 7/10/23 and after 7/10/23.”

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