newsIsrael at War

70% of Gaza periphery residents return home

The development underscores a step towards normalcy amid sporadic rocket fire from the Strip.

Damage to the “From Holocaust to Revival Museum” at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in southern Israel, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Rina Castelnuovo.
Damage to the “From Holocaust to Revival Museum” at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in southern Israel, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Rina Castelnuovo.

Nearly six months after the devastating Oct. 7 invasion, data from the IDF Home Front Command reveals a significant return of Gaza periphery residents to their homes. Approximately 70% of those affected have made the decision to return, despite the continued unrest and occasional rocket fire from Gaza.

The return rates vary significantly across communities, heavily influenced by their proximity to the Gaza Strip. For instance, in Netiv HaAsara, a moshav directly adjacent to the Gaza fence, a mere 4.5% of residents have returned. This contrasts sharply with other areas a bit further from the conflict zone, where the return rate is considerably higher. For instance, in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, around 60% of the residents have returned, and in kibbutzim Karmia and Zikim, the figures are approximately 50% and 40%, respectively.

Most of the towns located between 4 and 7 kilometers from the Strip have seen the return of 75% of residents. This includes communities such as the city of Sderot and the Sa’ad and Urim kibbutzim, indicating a greater sense of security or perhaps a stronger attachment to their homes among residents of these areas.

In contrast, the majority of the residents of fence-adjacent towns that bore the brunt of the terrorist onslaught, such as the three kibbutzim of Nir Oz, Be’eri and Kfar Aza, still live in temporary accommodations farther away from Gaza, awaiting the reconstruction of their homes. The Home Front Command’s efforts to facilitate this process involve individualized meetings with community representatives, aiming to address security concerns and provide the necessary civilian and defense infrastructures for a safe return.

The trend of returning residents indicates a cautious but tangible step towards normalization. The Home Front Command has been transparent about the continued risk of conflict but has also worked to reassure communities by emphasizing the reduced threat level compared to the situation on Oct. 6, thanks to IDF operations in the area.

The decision for communities like kibbutzim Magen and Kerem Shalom to plan returns in April and July respectively underlines the evolving situation on the ground, where decisions are made in real-time based on the latest security assessments and developments in the region.

This gradual return of Gaza periphery residents, while marked by caution due to the unpredictable nature of the conflict, signifies a critical phase in the region’s recovery. It reflects both the challenges and progress in restoring life to a region that has been on the frontline of the Israel-Hamas war.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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