The village of Kfar Azza looked normal from a distance — tidy terraces of one-story beige houses. I walked past the village dining hall, kindergarten and culture center, and turned left.
Then the horror unfolded.
From the homes lining a terrace, Israeli soldiers on Tuesday morning carried stretchers bearing the bodies of three residents slain by Palestinian fighters, and placed them on the back of a truck. An untold number remained inside, the soldiers said.
Several homes were burned out. Inside, bullet holes riddled some of the ceilings. An unexploded grenade lay under a kitchen table.
This was the scene of some of the worst bloodshed on Saturday, after gunmen surged across the border from Gaza, a mile and a half to the west, gunning down an unknown number of the village’s 750 residents. A New York Times photographer and I were among the first journalists allowed into the village since the deadly assault.
“It’s not a war or a battlefield, it’s a massacre,” said Maj. Gen. Itai Veruv, an Israeli officer on the scene. “It’s something I never saw in my life, something more like a pogrom from our grandparents’ time.”
There were more than a dozen bloated bodies lying on the ground, some of them Israelis. But some were dead Palestinian fighters — killed during a gun battle when Israeli soldiers finally retook control of the village. Nearby were the remains of a wrecked pickup truck and a hang-glider, two of the vehicles used by the gunmen to cross the border into Israel.
A dead man’s legs poked out from underneath a bush.
Traveling to Kfar Azza on Tuesday, we drove through several similar scenes, and saw dozens of shot-up and burned-out cars. Rows of tanks, armored vehicles and Israeli soldiers secured the road. But while we were in the village, frequent rocket fire from Gaza sent us rushing for cover.
In between the booms, we were left with the eerie sound of silence.