Death and heartbreak at every turn in kibbutz near Gaza that was ambushed by Hamas 

BE’ERI, Israel — An overwhelming smell of death lingers in the air in Be’eri, a kibbutz near the Gaza border where Hamas militants ambushed the small community Saturday morning, leaving dozens dead and a trail of devastation.

Days later, body bags remain on the streets. Demolished homes and vehicles with their doors hanging wide open tell a story of not just one community, but an entire country, completely caught off guard.

“They came to kill, kill and kill,” Israeli Maj. Gen. Itai Veruv said as he led journalists down the now-unrecognizable streets of Be’eri.

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Liel Fishbien, 25, with his family.Liel Fishbien, 25, with his family.Liel Fishbien

“There’s no kibbutz there anymore,” said Liel Fishbien, 25, who survived the attack after 22 hours in hiding with his grandmother at her home in Be’eri and later fled to safety. “Everything was demolished.”

While Fishbien managed to escape, around 100 people were killed, according to Israeli emergency services, and others were believed to have been taken hostage — including Fishbien’s younger sister, Tchelet Fishbien, 18, and her boyfriend, whom she had recently started dating.

‘Be careful and be quiet’

Fishbien said that he and his grandmother were in contact with his sister, who works at a kindergarten, after they took shelter when they heard what sounded like missiles shortly after 6:30 a.m. Saturday, but that they lost contact around 11:30 a.m.

“The last thing she said was: ‘Be careful and quiet. They’re in your neighborhood,’” he said.

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Fishbien, a musician who lives in Jerusalem, teaches drum lessons and works as a technician at the Tower of David, said that before Saturday, he had been planning to go to Japan next year to study music. He also hoped to study Buddhism and visit a monastery.

Now, “we have no plan,” he said. “Just surviving this.”

Blown out homes and buildings in Be’eri, IsraelA destroyed house Wednesday in Be’eri, Israel, where Hamas militants killed dozens of people days earlier.Chantal Da Silva / NBC NewsBlown out homes and buildings in Be’eri, IsraelA house in ruins Wednesday in Be’eri, Israel, near the border with Gaza, after dozens of civilians were killed days earlier.Chantal Da Silva / NBC News

‘They left us to die’

Fishbien said he felt the Israeli government failed his family and hundreds of others who lost loved ones in the attack.

“They left us to die. It’s just what happened,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “define myself as left or right.”

He said he felt “sad that innocent people are getting hurt,” both in Israel, where at least 1,200 people, including 189 soldiers, have died, and in Gaza, where at least 1,120 people have been killed and more than 260,000 have been displaced.

Liel Fishbien, 25, and his sister  Tchelet Fishbien, 18.Liel Fishbien, 25, and his sister Tchelet Fishbien, 18.Liel Fishbien

Fishbien said he also saw the faces of some of the Hamas militants who attacked his community, saying some of them looked like they could be “14-year-old children.”

“Children should not go into places killing people,” he said. “They should have a better life.”

Chantal Da Silva

Chantal Da Silva is a breaking news editor for NBC News Digital based in London. 

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Raf Sanchez

Raf Sanchez is a foreign correspondent for NBC News.