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‘Dad. They shot me. Help’: Surviving the Kfar Aza kibbutz massacre

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Twenty-two-year-old Neta Portal had not spoken to her dad in six years, following her parents’ divorce.

But when Hamas gunmen broke into her house in the Jewish community of Kfar Aza and shot her six times, she knew he was the only person who could save her life.

Shimon Portal, a policeman, was already in a firefight in the nearby city of Sderot when he received the first message from his daughter:


But the killing at the kibbutz had already begun.

We meet Neta at a hospital in Tel Aviv where doctors have now carefully removed each bullet – five in her left leg and one from her right.

She trembles as she recalls slipping in and out of consciousness after the gunmen broke into the residents’ safe room and opened fire for the first time:

“They were shooting people. They were shooting the kids. And the people were shouting ‘Please no, please no.’ I tried to wake myself because I didn’t want to die.”

Sitting next to her in her cubicle is her boyfriend Santiago – or Santi – who struggles to contain his tears.

Couple together

The couple had spent four months in Kfar Aza – a place they describe as the most beautiful on earth.

Their interlocking hands whiten as their grip tightens and Neta recalls what happened next.

“Santi told me ‘Neta, please open the window. Please jump.’ I started to open the window and I saw 10 or 15 terrorists.”

She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“They were standing on a car with a big machine gun, smoking cigarettes and laughing like they were on vacation.”

Neta says she and her boyfriend were scared to jump but when an attacker threw a grenade into the room, Santi grabbed her and they jumped out of the window together.

“The terrorists saw us and began to shoot like we were nothing.”

A victim of the attack

Neta was hit by even more bullets in the leg and in the hand.

“Santiago screamed at me: ‘Please stand up – start to run. If you don’t stand up we’re going to die. We’re going to die.'”

Santiago managed to carry her to safety two streets away where they hid under a big pile of rubbish, trying to stay as quiet as possible.

As Santiago silently used his shirt to try to stem the blood escaping from Neta’s legs, she managed to message her dad again.

Neta tells her father that she has been shot and her father replies that he is coming to get her

Also in the hospital, and sitting by his daughter’s side, Shimon Portal tells me what it was like to receive that message.

“My heart stopped. My brain started to whirl. I was mad.”

The plain clothes policeman was already on his way to Kfar Aza but when he eventually arrived in his unmarked car, gunmen opened fire and he responded.

Shimon reversed as bullets peppered his vehicle, and he managed to drive away.

He composed himself and then attempted to make a second attempt to rescue his daughter.

This time, all was quiet, so he called out for Neta.

“Suddenly, three children ran to my car because they had heard me shouting in Hebrew. And I opened the door. They started to get in the front, but two terrorists came out of the houses and shot at us.”

Neta's father Shimon

Shimon says he was able to escape with the three girls.

He didn’t know where his daughter lived, but made his way to the location she sent him.

Then he found her. He put Neta in the back of his car, and together with Santiago who’d also been shot in the leg, they drove to the nearest hospital.

A reunion of father and daughter in the midst of one of the most gruesome attacks Israel suffered.

Now, in the ward, Shimon looks at his daughter, in her hospital gown.

“My beautiful daughter. I have got her back.”

But his relief is overwhelmed with anger and sadness.

“She is a child of peace. She believes only in peace, and she don’t understand why they killed small children, why they burned small children in the kibbutz.”

The whole family pictured in hospital


More on Israel Gaza war


With Neta visibly tiring and her nurse despatching herself to retrieve more painkillers, I ask Neta how she thinks the Israeli government should respond to the massacre of her community and the other atrocities.

It is at this point, her fluctuating distress turns to deep anger.

“You want the truth? I don’t want the Hamas anymore in my life. We need to destroy them one by one. We need to be strong.”

So what exactly should the army do?

“The army needs to be inside Gaza,” Neta says. “They need to kill one terrorist after one terrorist after one terrorist. I want peace with all my heart but I think it’s not going to be peace.”

She takes a breath.

“I’m sorry I say that – but I just was in my house. And they shot me in my bed.”

I ask a final question: does she think of the civilians in Gaza who will inevitably be killed in such an intense ground operation?

“All that I say is for the jihadis and Hamas. My country doesn’t want to hurt civilians. I don’t want to hurt civilians. I want them to be saved. I don’t think they need to die. Like I don’t need to die. They are like me.”

“But we need to fight.”

Additional reporting by Will Vernon and Matthew Goddard

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