On October 7, Inbal Rabin-Liberman, 26, the head of the security squad of Kibbutz Nir Am, found herself in the fight for her life and the lives of all the kibbutz members as she faced the onslaught of a dozen Hamas terrorists in the surprise dawn attack on the small agricultural communities along the Gaza border.
Along with everyone else, Rabin-Liberman was awoken by air raid sirens at 6:30 a.m. and then she received text instructions from the army to wake up her security team. She sent out messages to them, but something did not sit right with her, and she told them to come at once to her office to receive weapons.
The only woman on the 12-member security team whose oldest member is 59, Rabin-Liberman served in a combat unit in the IDF.
Judicial reform protests
Just weeks before, she had been protesting at the Kaplan demonstrations in Tel Aviv against what she believes to be a dangerous judicial overhaul by the government, and now in the early hours of the morning, she instructed her team to take up positions along the kibbutz fence as they watched in disbelief as more than a dozen armed terrorists approached the kibbutz fence.
“One of the terrorists reached the fence but the team was able to shoot and kill him before he got into the kibbutz,” related her father, Ofer Liberman, to The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview. “They killed off two others who had gotten to about 40 meters from the fence.”
Quick strategic thinking and the teamwork of the security squad prevented deaths and injuries: The security team managed to keep the terrorists at bay for almost three and a half hours until the army arrived, he said. None of the members of the security team were injured or killed in the battle, he added, and all kibbutz members were saved.
Though some accounts of the defense of the kibbutz depict Rabin-Liberman as a virtual one-woman Rambo running through the kibbutz armed with weapons and shielding women and children, the reality is much more humble and much more human as related by her father. She was “just” a young daughter of the kibbutz, protecting her home and family.
“She still isn’t able to speak about it really,” said her father, who spoke to his daughter briefly as she prepared for the operation while he and other members of the kibbutz hid in their safe rooms.
“When she is on active duty I try not to bother her. But she was in control, she called her team and went to get the rifles and got things ready for her 12 people.”
The kibbutz members had all gone into their safe rooms as soon as they heard the sirens, he said, as they usually do, even before they saw any messages from the security team.
Gazan agricultural workers were shot at by terrorists: Half an hour into the assault, Liberman said he received a phone call from his Palestinian workers from Gaza who had been working in the kibbutz orange grove, telling him hysterically that they were being shot at from a white van. For an instant he thought they may be Israeli soldiers, Liberman said, but quickly realized they were part of the terrorist group which infiltrated the kibbutz.
“I tried to call the army to see how we could get them out but they couldn’t do anything. I told my workers to hide and not to move so that the army wouldn’t find them and think they were terrorists. We were finally able to get them out only at 5 p.m.,” he said.
Seven of the nine workers were killed by the terrorists, he said.
“Thanks to our security team we were able to avoid a major disaster and no terrorist entered Nir Am,” said Liberman, who has been inundated by phone calls from journalists following the publication of the incident on social media.
He admits he is a bit tired from the calls, but he keeps taking them and talking so people will know what happened. “Our security team deserves credit for how they managed to hold off the terrorists fighting them for several hours until in the end the army arrived and eliminated them.”
Approximately 1,200 Israelis – including some 260 young party-goers at a desert rave at the nearby Kibbutz Re’im – were killed in the horrific attack on that has left Israelis and many people abroad in shock. Dozens of Israeli civilians have been taken hostage into Gaza and almost 3,500 have been injured. The IDF has been purposely vague about the numbers of dead, injured, and captives.
Liberman told Channel 13 that the residents of the kibbutz were finally permitted to leave their safe rooms in the evening, and when things were a bit calmer some members left the kibbutz, while others remained in their homes until 3 a.m. when the army sent buses and evacuated them to Tel Aviv.
“This is a huge break for the communities of the Gaza border,” he told the TV channel. “I think it will be very difficult now to regain the trust of the residents who were told the barrier would solve the problems and now we see that [the terrorists] came and broke through the fence.
“I am afraid that many families are likely to leave the area and it will be very hard to rehabilitate the area. There is some real housecleaning to do. Without a doubt there were many failures, some smaller, but a string of failures not just one.
“Before there was a feeling that terrorists would not enter our homes but then suddenly you see vans of terrorists entering Sderot.”