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Israel-Hamas War: Near Gaza, in ghost Israeli town, a few remain: ‘This is home, how to leave?’

Israel-Hamas War: The afternoon sun shimmers over the pastoral land in southern Israel, where green expanses, round hills and trees dot the landscape, its warm light painting a picture of serenity.

Except, it is too close to the Israel-Gaza border.

This is the small town of Sderot, less than 2 km from the Gaza strip at its nearest point. It was among the worst-hit in the Hamas attack on October 7. More than a week later, it wears the look of a ghost town, with most of its 30,000-strong population having fled to safer areas.

About 73 km south of Tel Aviv, the elegantly laid out streets of Sderot, with palm trees and pink and white flower beds lining the roads, look abandoned. Silence drapes the city punctuated only by air raid sirens and rocket attacks.

It will be 10 days tomorrow but the brutal reminders are still very visible.

On one of the streets, called Aarav David Buzaglo, is a grey house with bullet marks on the walls and shattered glass windows. Outside the house, there are four vehicles, also riddled with bullet marks, shattered windows and punctured tyres. One vehicle has suffered the impact of rockets, a black car is damaged almost beyond recognition. A white car has shattered windows, with two baby car seats in the rear, one with a Barbie picture on it.

A few hundred metres away, an area has been blockaded. Earthmovers are at work, clearing the rubble of what used to be a local police station. The Hamas had taken over the police station and captured hostages and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) had to bomb the building.

Nearby, there are signs of what used to be a normal town – posters of “I Love Sderot”, and happy pictures of residents.

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