Civilian security team in Israel held off Hamas for hours in the fight for their lives

While Hamas failed to kill a single resident in our kibbutz, sadly, they murdered seven Gazan agricultural workers that day in a nearby orange grove. Those Gazans lived and worked with us in the kibbutz; they were our people.

  • 7 months ago
  • December 18, 2023
7 min read
Inbal Rabin-Lieberman pictured before the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas on her kibbutz Nir Am where she served as the head of her civilian security force. | Photo courtesy of Inbal Rabin-Lieberman Inbal Rabin-Lieberman pictured before the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas on her kibbutz Nir Am where she served as the head of her civilian security force. | Photo courtesy of Inbal Rabin-Lieberman
journalist’s notes
interview subject
 Inbal Rabin-Lieberman, 26, serves as a civilian security officer and tattoo artist in the Nir Am kibbutz. Renowned for her heroic actions during the October 7, 2023 terrorist infiltration in Sderot, she expertly orchestrated her 12-member security team’s defense strategy, successfully safeguarding the kibbutz without any resident casualties. The operation, lasting over three hours, led to the neutralization of several terrorists. Inbal’s bravery and leadership have earned her national recognition as a hero, but she wants the focus to be on the 12-man team that defended Nir Am.
background information
On October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a large-scale attack on Israel, firing over 5,000 rockets and breaching the Gaza-Israel border with more than 300 armed terrorists. This led to around 1,400 civilian casualties and 213 hostages. Israel declared a state of war in response to this severe escalation. Amidst the turmoil, Inbal Rabin-Lieberman, a security officer at Kibbutz Nir Am, and her team successfully defended their community following an IDF alert. More on the Israel-Palestinians conflict.

Nir Am, Israel – At 6:30 a.m. on Shabbat, I received a distress alert from the Israel Defense Forces. As the civilian security coordinator of the kibbutz Nir Am, I knew getting a call that early on a holiday in Israel meant something serious. The caller on the other end of the line spoke two simple words: “Terrorist attack.” I awakened my 12-person security team which included my uncle, whom I lived with in the kibbutz. He served as the previous security coordinator and in the IDF.

Two days before the incident I spent the day in Tel Aviv with my family for dinner. They insisted I stay for the weekend, but I wanted to go home to join my crew and I’m glad I did. I was able to do something that day. On October 7, 2023, hundreds of heavily armed terrorists from Gaza infiltrated 22 communities south of Israel. We did not imagine just how big the attack was as we lived through it, and it’s still not over.

Read more stories from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Orato World Media.

Twelve-man civilian security force holds kibbutz for over three hours

Early in the morning, I heard the distressing sound of rockets and drones at the Israel-Gaza border. The call from the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed the worst. When the electricity went out in the entire kibbutz, I told the electrician to wait; I wanted to understand the cause of the outage first.

Running from house to house, I called in the emergency squad, and everyone came to help. Each man stood ready to defend their families and the kibbutz, but I wanted to get people to safety. Less than 500 yards away, a detachment of Israel’s Special Police Unit engaged in a battle against Hamas terrorists who invaded that morning. Many people already died and there were reports of extensive damage.

Our 12-man security force stood ready to fight for Nir Am, located at the southwestern edge of the city of Sderot. Eager to save our kibbutz, I took the weapons from the IDF armory and handed them out, but my biggest task was to usher families to a fortified room where they would be safe.

Once we relocated the residents to safety, I began to station the security force in strategic positions, including ambush points along the fence of the kibbutz. My previous decision not to turn on the generator proved critical; the Hamas terrorists at the gates could not break in due to the power outage. When they stopped at the gate, the incursion came face-to-face with our armed and battle-ready squad.

Hamas murdered seven Gazan agricultural workers

As Hamas soldiers approached the kibbutz, they faced an intense battle. My team shot three of them dead immediately – one who tried to break the gate and two others attempting to enter 40 meters away at the fence.

Our squad fought intensely, preventing Hamas from entering the kibbutz. The fight carried on for three and a half hours until IDF soldiers arrived. While Hamas failed to kill a single resident in our kibbutz, sadly, they murdered seven Gazan agricultural workers that day in a nearby orange grove. Those Gazans lived and worked with us in the kibbutz; they were our people.

The call is seared in my memory. A half an hour into the attack, my phone rang. The Palestinian worker sounded hysterical. “We were shot at by a white van,” he said. At first he thought the shooters might be Israeli soldiers, but soon realized it was Hamas.

When the IDF soldiers arrived, we felt safe, but the fear and pain shone on everyone’s faces. The families remained confined to their rooms for hours, and finally came out around 5:00 p.m. Many left immediately, while others remained. At 3:00 a.m. the next day, army buses evacuated the remaining residents to Tel Aviv. The kibbutz stood eerily empty. This place, built with passion and love, became completely deserted.

I am no hero

The mayor and the President of the United States came to meet me. People far and wide lauded my actions, calling me brave, courageous, and a hero for saving dozens of lives in Nir Am, but I am no hero. I see myself as an ordinary girl who responded to an emergency as anyone would, to save lives. As the security officer for my kibbutz, I did my job that day.

As the calls and messages flooded in, I reminded people: I did not save the kibbutz. The squad did. They stood the test of time and saved homes and families. They prevented countless deaths and kidnappings, and not a single one of them sustained injuries throughout that terrible battle.

Everyday, I receive some new heroic meme and that feels wrong. They depict me as a one-woman Rambo, shielding mothers and children, but teamwork beat Hamas that day. For more than three hours in Nir Am, as we struggled against Hamas terrorists at our gate, I just kept thinking, “Keep the people safe.” I tried reaching the army, but during the heat of the battle, they could do nothing for us. It felt like a lot to handle, but we focused on getting families in one safe place together so that if we all died fighting, the army could find them.

Israel will never be the same

Looking back, it remains impossible to talk about it in detail. October 7, 2023, feels like the biggest shock of my life. My parents tried hard to reach me during the fight, and I can only imagine the pain they felt knowing their daughter remained trapped in a battle for her life.

When the operation ended, I spoke to my father briefly. I reassured him that we made it. We are safe, but we are not okay. I live with my parents now. Most of the members of the Nir Am kibbutz stay at shelter homes. Imagine going from your beautiful community to a single room with a mass of people for months.

Everyone lost that day. The destruction at the border affected trust deeply. The residents in the kibbutz believed the barrier along the border kept them safe – that it solved the problem with Hamas terrorists – but it did not. Hamas came through the fences anyway. I fear many families may never return.

For me, I saw too much, and I cannot overcome that. These days, I tire of the calls for interviews and the assignment of heroic names. I continue to speak out because I want people to understand what happened; and I want our security team to be credited for holding the terrorists back for hours.

I do not know a family in Israel without a loved one who died or was injured or kidnapped that day. We will rebuild, but the scars run deep. Israel will never be the same. Our communities remain full of traumatized children and elders in mourning. Reports continue to arrive daily of another body found. I turned 26 this year and my people were killed like rats. The damage to our hearts and minds remains immeasurable.  

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