NIR AM, Israel — Micha Ben-Hillel is a former high school teacher who has lived in a nice home in a nice neighborhood in southern Israel for 50 years, about a mile from the Gaza border. But lately, he and his wife Pnina spend most of their time indoors.
The Nir Am Kibbutza communal living development is normally home to about 400 people. With summer vacation in full swing, the pool should be full of kids. But all of the children are gone. At the playground, you only see Israeli Defense Forces soldiers taking a break between shifts on the front lines.
Living here now is stressful. Rockets are lobbed over from Gaza almost every day. Everyone here knows the IDF will try to stop rockets that are headed for heavily populated areas. But a deserted kibbutz is another story. At least two rockets have landed here in the past week. One wiped out a pond and small pens that used to hold farm animals.
Fighting has been going on for more than two weeks, as Israel has launched daily airstrikes against Hamas militants in Gaza and has sent in soldiers to eradicate tunnels into Israel used by Hamas. A 12-hour cease-fire that began Saturday was later pushed back, although Hamas said it was rejecting the extension.
Early last Monday, a group of five Hamas militants made it through a tunnel into Israel, about a mile from here. They headed toward Nir Am Kibbutz where they encountered IDF forces and started shooting.
“We heard a lot of gunfire. We heard bombs. We woke up and we were asked to stay at our homes and lock the door,” Ben-Hillel told NBC News.
Ben-Hillel said he knew that if the Hamas fighters had made it into his neighborhood they would have killed anyone they saw.
“If Israel didn't deal right now with destroying the tunnels, and destroying the threat, we would wake up to a reality where these tunnels would help terrorists to go under the border and reach the kibbutz,” he said.
Ben-Hillel said he is alright with this first stage and that he does not think Israel will gain anything from letting the war continue much longer.
“That is how I feel. Enough is enough,” Ben-Hillel said.
First published July 26 2014, 2:29 PM
Kate Snow is a national correspondent for NBC News, contributing stories to "Nightly News with Brian Williams," the "TODAY" show and Dateline. In this role, she also serves as a fill-in anchor for "Nightly News with Brian Williams" and the "TODAY" show. Prior to being named national correspondent, Snow served as correspondent for "Rock Center with Brian Williams".
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Over her career, Snow has covered politics, four presidential elections, the White House and Congress. She continues to cover breaking news stories -- from the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., to the mall attack in Kenya and the oil spill in the Gulf.
An Emmy-winning journalist, Snow has traveled extensively and told stories that created change. Her Rock Center piece on teenage foreign exchange students being abused by host parents led to new policies at the State Department. Snowâ€™s investigative reports on texting while driving and soccer concussions among young female soccer players sparked national conversations. She was the first reporter to sit down with one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and tell his story, as well as the first to speak with kidnap victim Hannah Anderson.
Snow has interviewed a wide range of newsmakers -- from President Obama to Bono. She pointedly questioned President Bill Clinton in his first interview after his wife lost the 2008 nomination. But she can just as easily sing a tune with Rick Springfield.
Prior to joining NBC News as a "Dateline" correspondent in 2010, Snow was the anchor of the weekend edition of Good Morning America, a program she anchored from its inception. Previously, she was a White House correspondent for ABC News and a Congressional Correspondent for CNN.
Snow is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a masterâ€™s degree in international affairs from Georgetown Universityâ€™s School of Foreign Service. She serves on the national board of the charity Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Snow and her husband have two children.