Left behind, in an assaulted Israeli town
SDEROT, Israel — This assaulted Israeli town of more than 35,000 residents is now deserted — nearly.
Israeli authorities evacuated civilians from Sderot and other areas along the Gaza border after Hamas militants launched an attack Saturday that has killed more than 1,300 people in Israel.
A few survivors have remained behind.
In one Sderot building, its windows shattered by a Hamas rocket, is a Ukrainian immigrant. She cares for an ill Holocaust survivor.
Both are staying behind: one from a country at war, taking care of a survivor of another war, in their adoptive country fighting a new war.
In the same building, there are eight guest workers from China — construction workers — crowded in a room with beds and cooking pots.
One of the laborers, Jiang Hua, says their boss told them there weren't any vehicles to get them out of the town since the attacks began Saturday.
They've heard gunfire and rocket fire for days on end. But he says they're reassured by the Israeli forces in the city.
A short drive away, the carcass of a car sits next to a grocery store. In another part of the city, a police station is in ruins, decimated by Israeli tank fire after Hamas militants stormed it, killing the police officers inside.
At the entrance of the city, Israeli medics and warriors take a break at a makeshift rest station next to a reinforced shelter.
Efi Menahem, the sergeant of a special forces unit of the paramilitary border police, says he killed Hamas men next to an Israeli home. He says he saw Israelis' bodies without heads — burned or chopped off, he's not sure.
"Any emotions, you lock away," Menahem says.
Naomi Galeano, a medic with the United Hatzalah volunteer rescue service, spent the afternoon of the attacks driving past the carnage of bodies, looking for anyone still alive.
"There were more dead than alive," she says. "The world doesn't even know yet the amount of butchered bodies."
Less than a mile away is the Gaza Strip, where more than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli reprisal airstrikes. Its 2 million residents are trapped in the small coastal territory — blockaded by Israel and Egypt — without reinforced shelters and unable to flee.
Militants in Gaza fire rockets across the border. They speed through the cloudy afternoon skies.
Galeano calls out to the crowds of medics and soldiers to duck into the reinforced outdoor shelter.
"Get in, get in, get in," she calls out. The concrete shelter walls shake with each boom.
Then the medics hop in their ambulance, and the paramilitary fighters board their vehicles, and they all speed off.
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