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'For us, this attack was like 9/11'

October 12, 2023 13:23 IST
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'We thought all the Jews in the world could live securely in today's world, and that feeling is broken.'

IMAGE: Objects burn on a road in Ashkelon, Israelm October 7, 2023 after rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Hamas officials claim they have been planning the October 7, 2023 attack for five years, lulling Israeli intelligence and defence officials into believing that the militant Palestinian organisation was more interested in governing Gaza where it is in power than returning to its ways of murder and mayhem.

On the morning of October 7, 2023, Hamas fired rockets -- numbering between 2,000 and 5,000 -- into Israel even as armed militants entered and attacked Israeli towns near Gaza on a Jewish holiday.

Like it happened 50 years ago on October 6, 1973, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day for the Jews, when Egyptian and Syrian troops attacked Israel.

Both attacks took Israel by surprise.

Guy Telner, who lives in the Tel Aviv area and works as an engineering leader at a multi-national high-tech company, tells's Shobha Warrier how Israelis view the horrific Hamas attack where soldiers were murdered in their beds, children and elderly women were abducted.

IMAGE: A Palestinian man takes a selfie in front of a burning Israeli military vehicle after it was hit by Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated areas of southern Israel on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border, October 7, 2023. Photograph: Yasser Qudih/Reuters

For us, this attack was like 9/11. Nobody anticipated an attack of this scale.

I would say the first line of defence was broken and the entire population was at the mercy of the people who came in.

There was total shock everywhere, and it horrified everyone to hear about the number of people dead.

I was sleeping at home and at 6:30 in the morning, suddenly I heard sirens on the street. I thought it couldn't be true.

On a Saturday morning, on a holiday, you don't expect it.

I opened the Internet, but there was nothing. We went down to the shelter; everyone has a shelter here.

Suddenly, pictures started appearing on the Internet. It was shocking.

What followed was very, very, dark moments.

I contacted some of my friends and asked, 'Are you okay?' They said, "No, we are hiding in the house. There is shooting outside, and we are terrified. The kids are frightened."

What I heard were terrible stories.

IMAGE: People in Ashkelon, Israel, October 7, 2023, react in the aftermath of Hamas's rocket barrage. Photograph: Yasser Qudih/Reuters

The sense, right now, is a mix of shock, sadness, anger and horror. But people are very resilient here.

The Jews have seen a lot of things in the past, and that has made them very resilient.

What you see is the entire country coming together, and the amount of volunteering is unbelievable. But it is sad that we have to be in this situation.

IMAGE: People in Ashkelon, October 7, 2023 react in the aftermath of Hamas's rocket attack. Photograph: Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Israel's intelligence agency Mossad is supposed to be the best in the world. Naturally everybody is surprised that Mossad had no clue about what Hamas was planning to do.

Totally. We say that the attack was very similar to 9/11. It is a doomsday scenario.

Yes, we missed the intelligence around such an attack.

The rumours say they have been planning this for years as this cannot be done in a day's planning. This was an extremely well-planned attack.

So, we feel there was total failure in intelligence gathering. It is very similar to the 1973 Yom Kippur attack by the Egyptian and Syrian troops.

The Yom Kippur war was a total surprise, but we managed to win that war though a lot of soldiers died.

This time, the entire community got devastated. A lot of civilians -- babies, children, women, old people -- like what happened in the Holocaust.

My father is a Holocaust survivor, and all the stories of the Holocaust were living within us.

A lot of civilians getting killed in the Hamas attack brought back a lot of bad memories.

We thought all the Jews in the world could live securely in today's world, and that feeling is broken. That's why the storm this has created, unfortunately will be severe.

What happened last week, cannot happen again. It saddens to think about it.

IMAGE: Palestinians celebrate as an Israeli military vehicle burns after it was hit by Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated areas of southern Israel on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border, October 7, 2023. Photograph: Yasser Qudih/Reuters

Reports say Hamas has held small babies captive...

The execution, the beheading.. it is very ISIS like.

I saw some videos of young supporters of the terrorist organisation celebrating and bragging about the massacres.

I have no words to describe the behaviour. It is like the pogroms in Russia, it is like the Holocaust pictures.

Yes, during the Holocaust, they were pleading for help, and nobody wanted to help. The emotion is the same.

IMAGE: An aerial view shows vehicles on fire in Ashkelon, October 7, 2023, as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Is there disappointment and anger against the Netanyahu government? I read reports that provocative statements and actions by the right-wing elements in his coalition, have contributed a lot to this attack.
As a citizen, do you think so?

Definitely, there is a lot of anger against the Netanyahu government. They are sitting at the helm, and they are responsible to protect the people.

Also, he has been prime minister for around 14 years.

Netanyahu is a survivor. He managed to form a small coalition this time, but very right wing. In fact, this one is the most right-wing extreme government.

During the last 9 months, Israel went through huge turmoil because this government was trying to change so many things including neutering the judiciary.

There were huge mass protests against the government, and this might have given the impression to the enemies that we were weak.

But the amazing thing is that at the time of this crisis, all those groups including the ones on social media, suddenly turned around to help society. The enemies miscalculated the strength of this society.

Yes, Netanyahu has to bear the responsibility for this terrible attack.

IMAGE: Smoke and flames billow after Israeli forces struck a high-rise tower in Gaza City, October 7, 2023. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Netanyahu has said Gaza would be reduced to rubble. The fact is, ultimately civilians are suffering on both sides.

That's the sad part. As a human being, I am very saddened by what is happening.

Israel was to sign a peace treaty with Saudi Arabia. Maybe Hamas wants to stop it through such violence.

I am reminded of a quote by Golda Meir (Israel's prime minister from 1969 to 1974). She said to the Palestinians, 'I am willing to forgive you for killing our children, but I will never forgive you for making us kill your children. I hope that you will love your children more than you hate us.'

IMAGE: Guy Telner. Photograph: Kind courtesy Guy Telner

Are the people of Israel against Hamas or the Palestinians as a whole?

Israelis are not against Palestinians. There were a lot of attempts for peace in the past.

The tragedy of the Palestinians in the eyes of Israelis is that they wasted so many opportunities.

Will there ever be peace between Israel and Palestine?

I really hope so. Is there any other solution?

But what is happening is demonisation of the other on both sides. Though we don't want it that way, that's the reality.

It is like India and Pakistan; not that different. After all, people are people.

Fortunately, Israelis had some amazing leaders in the last 100 years who managed to bring the broken people out of the Holocaust and build this country.

But Palestinians never had any such leader.

We were hoping that they had a Nelson Mandela. The tragedy is that no such leader has emerged so far.

Photographs curated by Manisha Kotian/
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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