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What Really Happened on October 7?

by | Feb 19, 2024

What Really Happened on October 7?

by | Feb 19, 2024

grunge flag of israel and palestine

On 7 October, Hamas carried out an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel. Under the cover of a barrage of rockets, fighters from the Hamas military wing, the Qassam Brigades, broke through the Gaza border fence to attack nearby military bases and settlements (kibbutzim).

Israel claims that during the attack, Hamas fighters massacred some 1,200 Israelis, the majority civilians, while committing unthinkable atrocities.

A close review of events on 7 October shows that Hamas fighters instead carried out what amounted to both a military assault and mass kidnapping operation to break Israel’s decades long siege on Gaza, which many view as the world’s largest concentration camp.

In the process, they did kill hundreds of Israelis, including soldiers, police, and civilians, while taking hundreds more as captives back to Gaza.

At the same time, many of the claims made by Israel about the scale and nature of Hamas atrocities, including the most horrific, have proven to be fabrications.

Shockingly, many of the Israeli civilians and soldiers who died that day were killed not by Hamas, but by Israeli forces themselves, both as a result of friendly fire and the controversial military policy known as the “Hannibal Directive.”

The policy dictates it is better for Israel to kill its own soldiers or civilians rather than allow an enemy to take them captive.

As detailed below, the Israeli military unleashed overwhelming firepower to reconquer the military bases and kibbutzim near Gaza that had been taken over by Hamas.

Israeli forces used heavy weapons, including from Apache attack helicopters, Merkava tanks, and armed Zik drones to bomb military bases and residential homes in which Hamas fighters had barricaded themselves, killing the fighters, Israeli soldiers, and civilians in the process.

Israeli helicopters and drones also opened fire on Israeli civilians as they were being taken captive by Hamas fighters and other Palestinians back to Gaza by car, on foot, and even in tractors and golf carts. As a result, many destroyed cars and corpses of Israelis were found near the Gaza border fence in the days and weeks after the attack.

The Israeli government says Hamas massacred 364 partygoers and took 40 more captive at the Nova music festival, a “rave” dance party which was taking place on the morning of 7 October near the Gaza border and Re’im military base.

Hamas certainly killed partygoers and took others captive. But evidence shows that Israeli forces also unleashed overwhelming firepower and issued the Hannibal Directive at the festival, killing partygoers as well.

Though it took hours for the army to respond, elite commando units from the Border Police, known as Yamam, were quickly deployed, including by transport helicopter, to the Nova site. Partygoers reported being fired on by armed men wearing Israeli uniforms.

Apache helicopters also were deployed to the Nova site and opened fire using heavy weapons, killing partygoers as well. Destroyed cars and the charred corpses of partygoers littered the site following the battle.

It is unknown how many were killed in the kibbutzim and at the Nova festival by Hamas fighters or other Palestinians who flooded across the border after them, and how many were killed by Israeli forces by friendly fire or deliberately under the Hannibal Directive.

Though many Israeli civilians were burned to death by Israeli helicopter, drone, and tank fire, both in the kibbutzim and at the Nova festival, the Israeli military blamed all of these deaths on Hamas, citing them as proof of Hamas’ allegedly genocidal intent against Israeli Jews.

The Israeli military, police, and volunteer rescue organizations also fabricated wild tales about Hamas fighters committing ISIS-like atrocities, such as the mass beheading of babies, cutting the fetuses out of pregnant mothers, and carrying out mass rapes, including cutting off the breast of a woman as she was gang raped.

Though these claims were quickly refuted, they were widely repeated in the mainstream media and continue to color the perception of the Hamas attack.

According to a list of victims compiled by the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 792 Israeli civilians, 59 police, and 368 soldiers were killed during the fighting on 7 October and subsequent days.

To determine how many Israelis were killed by Hamas, and how many by Israeli forces, would require a detailed and objective investigation.

However, establishing the full truth of what happened on 7 October will be difficult for several reasons.

Israeli officials refused to follow standard protocols to document the condition of the bodies of those who died, and quickly destroyed multiple sites where controversial events took place using bulldozers.

The verbal testimony that has emerged is also incomplete, due to the influence of Israeli military censors, which must approve any reports concerning national security published by the Israeli press, and in some cases even the foreign press.

What really happened on 7 October is further obscured by the Israeli military’s refusal to release the full video footage collected from body cameras of killed Hamas fighters and dash cameras from cars in various sites of the fighting.

However, enough details have emerged based on specific individual cases to construct a broad outline of events on 7 October and to understand the main dynamics of the violence.

In the remainder of this essay, I briefly discuss the history of the kibbutzim and their relation to past Israeli assaults on Gaza. I then discuss the events of 7 October in great detail, starting with the Hamas attack on the Re’im and Nahal Oz military bases and Sderot police station. I then detail events at several kibbutzim, including Be’eri, Kfar Azza, Nir Oz, Nahal Oz, and Holit. I conclude by discussing events at the Nova rave, which are perhaps the most controversial.

Where is Gaza?

1948 is the year known by Palestinians as the “Nakba” or “catastrophe.” Israelis know it as the year of the establishment of the state of Israel.

David Ben Gurion and other Zionist leaders understood that the majority of the indigenous population of British Mandate Palestine, the Christian and Muslim Arabs, needed to be “cleansed” from the land to create a state with a Jewish demographic majority.

That year, Zionist militias employed rape and massacre as tools to conquer 78 percent of Mandate Palestine and successfully “transfer” some 750,000 Palestinians from the territory of the new state.

Israel’s ethnic cleansing of most of the indigenous population created what is known as the Palestinian “refugee problem.”

Some 500,000 Palestinians were expelled to the West Bank (under Jordanian control), Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, making them refugees.

Zionist militias expelled another 250,000 Palestinians to a narrow strip of land on the sea around Gaza City, which was already home to 80,000. The Gaza Strip, as it became known, came under Egyptian control.

In subsequent years, Israel “deported” Palestinian Bedouins from the northern Negev Desert to Gaza as well.

Most of the refugees who flooded into Gaza came from towns and villages in central and southern Palestine, while others came from as far north as Galilee. But, as Seraj Assi noted in Haaretz, “Those who came from villages around Gaza had to endure the painful spectacle of being displaced within sight of their lost lands and houses.”

A Wound in My Heart

On the land stolen from Palestinians, Israel built new settlements, known as “kibbutzim,” to serve as military garrisons on the colonial frontier surrounding Gaza. These kibbutzim included Be’eri, Kfar Azza, Nir Oz, and Nahal Oz.

Many of the settlers were part of the “Nahal” or “Fighting Pioneer Youth” movement, which combined military service and the establishment of communal agricultural settlements, often in peripheral areas of the state.

Also near Gaza is Sderot, a town of some 30,000, which was built in 1951 on the ruins of two Palestinian Arab villages, Huj and Najd. Both villages were destroyed the Zionist militias (which later formed the Israeli army) during the 1948 Nakba. Their inhabitants were also expelled to Gaza as refugees and prevented from ever returning.

While Palestinians were forbidden to return, Jews from throughout the world were welcomed to Israel and given immediate citizenship. Sderot became home to Israeli settlers immigrating initially from Kurdistan and Iran, and later Morocco.

Sderot and the kibbutzim near Gaza served as part of a chain of settlements that proved crucial in preventing Palestinian “infiltration.”

These “infiltrators” included Palestinians simply seeking to return to their homes in what had become Israel, as well as Palestinian guerrillas, known as fedayeen, who carried out cross border attacks to challenge the nascent Israeli state that had made them refugees.

In 1953, the Israeli army established Unit 101 to deal with the “infiltrations,” Salman Abu Sitta of the Palestine Land Society detailed.

Ariel Sharon was chosen as the unit’s commander and its operations included raids into Gaza characterized by “lots of killing of civilians and little real combat,” according to Israeli journalist and former soldier Gideon Spiro.

This included the massacre of 20 Palestinians in Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp in August 1953, which foreign observers called “an appalling case of deliberate mass murder.”

Unit 101 also carried out a massacre in the West Bank town of Qibya in October of the same year, blowing up houses while the inhabitants were asleep and killing sixty-nine women and children.

In April 1956, a Palestinian from Gaza crossed the border and killed Roi Rotberg, the head of the Kibbutz Nahal Oz security squad.

At the funeral, Israeli army chief Moshe Dayan gave an oration saying that, “Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate.”

A few months later, in November 1956, Israel, Britain, and France invaded Egypt in what is known as the Suez War. Israeli troops used the kibbutzim as staging grounds to invade Egyptian-controlled Gaza. They carried out two massacres against Palestinian civilians, killing 275 in Khan Younis and 111 in Rafah.

One Israeli soldier in Gaza at the time explained that, “In a few alleyways we found bodies strewn on the ground, covered in blood, their heads shattered. No one had taken care of moving them. It was dreadful. I stopped at a corner and threw up. I couldn’t get used to the sight of a human slaughterhouse.”

A 9-year-old-boy from Khan Younis described his feelings after his uncle was killed during the massacre.

“It left a wound in my heart that can never heal,” he says. “I’m telling you a story and I am almost crying … They planted hatred in our hearts.”

The boy, Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, later became a leader of Hamas and was assassinated by an Israeli helicopter missile strike while driving his car in 2004.

Hungarian-born Israeli sociologist Joseph Ben-David pointed to the role of the kibbutzim surrounding Gaza as military garrisons, writing in 1964 that “The kibbutzim still serve to some extent as military outposts and as first defence lines,” and that defending the borders, including from infiltration by Palestinians wishing to return to their homes, “cannot be effectively carried out by the army without the active participation of the settlers.”

In 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza and Syrian Golan Heights during the Six Day War. Israel’s swift defeat of the Arab armies was a blessing for the leaders of the Zionist movement, as it brought both territories, which they viewed as part of “Greater Israel,” under Israeli control.

But the conquest was also a burden, in that the brief war provided no opportunity to “transfer” the indigenous Palestinian population elsewhere in a repeat of the 1948 Nakba. Israel therefore placed both areas under military occupation and began the slow but steady process of colonization. The Israeli army gradually confiscated Palestinian land for the establishment of settlements in which only Israeli Jews were allowed to live.

This included the establishment of a series of settlements in Gaza, known as the Gush Katif bloc, in 1968. Home to some 8,000 Jewish settlers, Gush Katif was built after then Labor Minister Yigal Allon proposed founding two Nahal settlements in the center of the Gaza Strip. He viewed the breaking of the continuity between the northern and southern Palestinian cities in the strip, Khan Younis and Gaza City, as vital to Israel’s security.

A Military Stronghold, Nothing Less 

Following the 1967 War, in which kibbutzim in northern Israel suffered attacks by the Syrian army, Eliezer Shoshani, head of the Kibbutz Movement Alliance, emphasized that, “A settlement on the border is a military stronghold, nothing less.”

Israeli historian Orit Rozin highlighted the dual military-civilian nature of the kibbutzim as well, explaining that, “Such settlements were established and bolstered by soldiers of the Nahal corps, a branch of the army in which soldiers combined active military service with establishing new kibbutzes and providing labor to established ones.”

Following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which sought to destroy the presence of Yaser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the country, Israeli sociologist Israel Shahak pointed to the role of the kibbutzim, not just in defending the borders, but in fighting offensive wars to expand Israeli territory in accordance with Zionist ideology.

“In the West, of those myths which glorify Israeli society, the myth of the kibbutzim is, perhaps, the most important one,” he wrote.

“What is thought by so many as the place where there is no exploitation is actually an institution in which the most perfect exploitation is being carried out, not only of the outsiders (the hired workers, the Palestinians whose land was stolen and given to the kibbutzim), but also of its own members,” who are often expelled, losing any claim to wealth they had created through their labor over the years.

But, Shahak points out, the “The kibbutz is, first and foremost, a militaristic institution.” Members of the kibbutzim comprised just 3.4 percent of the Jewish population of Israel, but “kibbutzniks were 25 percent of the air force pilots and 30 percent of the army officer corps.”

This meant that, “the offensive capacity of Israel to conquer territories … is dependent on kibbutzim to a very large extent.”

As a result, when “Beirut, the Palestinian refugee camps, and so many other localities in Lebanon were being mercilessly destroyed [during the 1982 Israeli invasion] … Almost no one, even among the more intelligent and more critical persons in the West, had any idea that the mythical kibbutznik, supposedly ‘making the desert bloom’ and forming a ‘socialistic commune,’ and the barbarous bomber and destroyer of people are one and the same,” Shahak explained.

Shocked by the destruction, US President Ronald Regan warned Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin that the Lebanon war threatened the “entire” US-Israeli relationship, calling it a “holocaust” whose symbol was “becoming a picture of a 7-month-old baby with its arms blown off.”

The Israeli invasion killed 17,825 Lebanese and Palestinians, and injured another 30,203.

Operation Cast Lead

Air Force pilots from the kibbutzim again played a key role when Israel launched a major military operation in Gaza, called “Cast Lead,” in 2008.

On 27 December, Israel launched multiple surprise airstrikes in a pre-mediated mid-day assault, killing 240 Palestinians in less than five minutes.

Amnesty International reported that Israeli targets included the Palestinian parliament, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labour, Housing and Construction, Finance and Justice, Gaza Central Prison, virtually all the police stations throughout the Gaza Strip, as well Hamas-affiliated TV stations and newspapers.

Amnesty notes that the justification for targeting non-military government buildings was provided by Major Avital Leibovitch, an Israeli army spokeswoman. She stated that “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target.”

This included the graduation ceremony of new police cadets, including traffic police.

The Telegraph reported at the time that “The young Palestinian cadets who gathered in Gaza City’s police headquarters on Saturday would have been buzzing with excitement as they prepared for their passing out ceremony,” to which “Proud mothers and fathers would have been invited.”

However, “just as the band played and the cadets formed up to march past” the chief of police, Israel dropped a laser guided bomb on the crowd, killing 40.

The strike was approved in advance by Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, the head of the human rights division of the Israeli army.

Political commentator and linguist Noam Chomsky notes that according to Haaretz, “Sharvit-Baruch and the division also legitimized the attack on Hamas government buildings and the relaxing of the rules of engagement, resulting in numerous Palestinian casualties.”

Chomsky notes as well that according to Hebrew University Law professor Yuval Shany, the decision to target the Gaza police graduation ceremony was based on the army’s categorization of the police “as a resistance force in the event of an Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip.”

Shany added further that the principle scarcely “differentiates them from [Israeli] reservists or even from 16-year-olds who will be drafted in two years” due to Israel’s mandatory military service laws.

Haaretz adds that a senior figure in the Israeli army’s international law division stretched the concept of a legitimate target further to include Palestinians who had been warned to leave their homes but refused.

Describing them as “voluntary human shields,” he explained that “From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them. In the case of people who return to their home in order to protect it, they are taking part in the fighting.”

Some of the numerous casualties on 27 December 2008 resulted from another strike, in which Israel fired an air-to-ground missile at a group of students leaving the Gaza Training College in downtown Gaza City, killing eight students, ages 18 to 20, and wounding 19 others.

When the fighting ended after 22 days, Amnesty reported that “some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground.”

Operation Protective Edge

In 2014, Israel initiated another bombing campaign on Gaza, known as “Operation Protective Edge.”

On 7 July, after seven Hamas fighters died in a tunnel crossing under the border that was apparently booby trapped by the Israeli army, Hamas launched a barrage of primitive rockets towards Israel. The army began its aerial bombing campaign on Gaza the next day.

Israel’s attacks included an artillery strike against a UN elementary school in Jabaliya where 3,000 displaced civilians had sought refuge from the bombing. Twenty Palestinians were killed, and dozens more wounded.

Amnesty investigated the attack and noted the school was hit by Israeli artillery despite the fact that the UN aid agency, UNRWA, had shared its coordinates with the Israeli army 17 times.

The strike was the sixth attack on a UN-run school in Gaza during the 2014 operation.

After ten days, Israel’s bombing campaign was expanded to include a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which lasted three weeks. Israel’s stated aim was to destroy Hamas’ cross-border tunnel system.

On 1 August, Israeli Lt. Hadar Goldin was believed to have been taken captive by Hamas during fighting in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Rather than seeking to rescue Goldin or negotiate for his release, Israeli officers desperately ordered the area where Goldin was abducted to be destroyed, likely killing Goldin and his Hamas captors, as well as any Palestinian civilians in the area.

The Times of Israel reported that a “column of tanks reportedly charged into inhabited neighborhoods where Goldin was abducted. Bulldozers tore down houses. Artillery batteries, tanks and aircraft opened fire, isolating the abduction zone and reportedly targeting all vehicles leaving the area.”

Palestinian sources claimed Israel killed 150 in the attack, while Israeli sources estimated the number at closer to 40.

The Hannibal Directive

The willingness of Israeli army commanders to unleash overwhelming fire power on the area in Gaza where their own soldier, Lt. Goldin, was taken captive indicates they invoked a controversial policy known as the “Hannibal Directive.”

The policy was established at least as early as 1986, following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Times of Israel described how the “directive allows soldiers to use potentially massive amounts of force to prevent a soldier from falling into the hands of the enemy. This includes the possibility of endangering the life of the soldier in question in order to prevent his capture.”

“Some officers, however, understand the order to mean that soldiers ought to deliberately kill their comrade in order to stop him from being taken prisoner, not that they may accidentally injure or kill him in their attempt,” the paper added.

The directive is meant to prevent Israel’s enemies from gaining leverage and forcing concessions from the Jewish state.

A Haaretz investigation of the directive concluded that “from the point of view of the army, a dead soldier is better than a captive soldier who himself suffers and forces the state to release thousands of captives in order to obtain his release.”

By way of example, Qassam fighters captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2006. After holding him for five years, the Hamas leadership was able to exchange Shalit for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including the current Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.

Assaf Sharon, the academic director of Molad, a progressive Israeli think tank, noted how the Hannibal Directive led Israel to not only kill Lt. Goldin after he was captured, but to commit war crimes against Palestinian civilians.

“I think the real problem starts with the hysterical discourse, of the kind that says, ‘This must be stopped at any cost.’ From there, the path to the horrors we’ve seen over the last few days, in Rafah, is a short one. What we’ve seen wasn’t only putting a soldier’s life at risk but intentionally targeting anything that moved—whether relevant or irrelevant.”

Stationed in Every Community

The kibbutzim played a key role in the 2014 war as well. In his important review of events on 7 October, British journalist Asa Winstanley explained that Israeli army brigades were stationed in the kibbutzim near Gaza in 2014 and before.

Winstanley notes that according to a former Israeli army commander, Graeme Ipp, his brigade’s forward headquarters during Protective Edge were based “not far from the kibbutzim of Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha,” which are both next to the Gaza fence.

The commander explained as well that in 1995, he and his army unit had been stationed in “our quarters at Kibbutz Kfar Azza,” also on the Gaza border.

When Amir Tibon, a journalist from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, moved to Kibbutz Nahal Oz near Gaza in 2014, Israeli “combat units were stationed in every community,” he told the Washington Post.

Further, each kibbutz had an armed security detail made up of residents with access to light weapons including M-16 machine guns and protective gear.

“We protect the border, and they [the government] protect us,” Tibon explained in Haaretz.

Military Surprises

But the so-called “Gaza problem” did not go away. A June 2018 report from Yedioth Ahronoth discussed the military leadership’s plan to prevent an anticipated future Hamas attack and reverse Ariel Sharon’s 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza by reoccupying the strip through a major ground invasion.

The report stated that the Israeli military would need to thwart attempts by Hamas “to prepare ‘military’ surprises with a psychological effect,” involving “a mass infiltration of Gazans into Israel,” and efforts “to abduct Israeli soldiers and civilians.”

The Israeli army’s response would involve “offensive missions” in which its elite units “will enter Gaza and dissect it in two, and even occupy significant parts of it,” to “create a considerable change in the situation.”

Though written in 2018, the Yedioth Ahronoth closely described the tactics Hamas would use five years later on 7 October, and the Israeli military’s response.

These military preparations to defend against an anticipated Hamas attack were coupled with efforts to keep the Palestinian national movement divided, with Hamas in control of Gaza and the Fatah-led PA in control of the West Bank under Israeli military supervision.

As Antiwar.com’s Connor Freeman and Scott Horton recently detailed, this strategy included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facilitating payments to fund Hamas, via Qatar.

Netanyahu boasted to members of his party in the Knesset that he could reliably control the backdraft created by his strategy, saying, “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas … This is part of our strategy – to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank … It’s impossible to reach an agreement with them … Everyone knows this, but we control the height of the flames.”

The Plan Comes Together

In 2022, Israel received indication Hamas was preparing such an attack. The vaunted 8200 Intelligence unit obtained a document written by Hamas entitled “The Plan for Defeating the IDF Gaza Division.”

Israel Hayom described the document as “a genuine gold mine, it contained everything: the IDF’s deployment (with a chilling level of detail) and the methods of contending with it, how to breach the border obstacle and to carry out the attack, as well as the targets and objectives during the attack and thereafter.”

The Israeli newspaper added that, “This item of intelligence reporting was disseminated to everybody. Nobody in the IDF or elsewhere, including the political policymakers, can claim that they were not familiar with it.”

Residents in the settlements and soldiers in the bases next to Gaza also saw signs of a looming attack. Haaretz reports they “heard Hamas training to infiltrate Israel, but the army disregarded their warnings and curtailed their surveillance capabilities. The army’s spotters detected suspicious digging, but their superiors claimed it was for farmwork.”

“It was clear that something would happen. It was only a matter of time,” Maya Dasiatnik, an observation officer at the Nahal Oz base, told the Kan public broadcaster.

She said that she and many fellow soldiers reported instances of people approaching the border fence with maps, appearing to study it for its weak spots, getting closer every week. There also were tractors and large groups of armed men, carrying out exercises that looked like military drills.

Israel’s Channel 13 reported that on 6 October, the night before the Hamas attack, enough irregular activity was detected on the border to prompt a meeting between senior officials in the Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic intelligence service) and senior officials in the army.

The activity was serious enough to wake a commanding general in the middle of the night, a measure which the army spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Hagari later acknowledged as “unusual.”

The decision was even made to notify Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office early the next morning. Channel 13 reported that Netanyahu’s military secretary, Avi Gil, received a warning of Hamas activities on the border around 06:12 Saturday morning. Netanyahu’s office claimed that he “was only updated on Saturday at exactly 06:29.”

However, senior army officials took no action to notify troops manning bases near the border, or to deploy reinforcements, claiming they made the decision to reassess the situation in the morning.

A Textbook Military Operation

At 6:30 am on 7 October, under the cover of a barrage of 5,000 rockets, some 1,500 Hamas fighters broke through the barrier separating the besieged Gaza Strip from Israel.

Using pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and even paragliders, they attacked multiple Israeli military bases and associated settlements, kibbutzim, in what is known as the “Gaza envelope.”

According to Haaretz, the first Hamas fighters to break through the border fence attacked military bases and outposts in groups of 15, killing some soldiers and taking others captive back to Gaza. They entered the Erez checkpoint, the Nahal Oz military outpost, the Gaza Division base at Re’im, the Kissufim outpost, and the Magen outpost.

In other words, the attack began just one minute after Netanyahu now says he was warned and unfolded exactly as the Israeli military leadership had anticipated as early as 2018.

According to Liam Collins of the US Marine Corps’ Modern War Institute, Hamas carried out a “textbook military operation” that was “not particularly sophisticated, nor particularly innovative.”

Collins, a retired US Army colonel and career Special Forces officer with combat deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, South America, and the Horn of Africa, expressed further that, “this type of basic attack is something that the Israelis could have and should have anticipated – even if not on the scale it was executed.”

This contradicts the now oft repeated claim that Israel “failed to imagine” Hamas could ever carry out such an attack.

We Never Expected That

The assault was led by 200 fighters from Hamas’ elite Nukhba brigade, followed by a second wave of hundreds more.

Body cam footage retrieved from a dead Hamas fighter showed how he and his unit crossed the border into Israel further south as part of the second wave.

According to CNN, which viewed the footage, the Hamas fighters had “nearly free reign” for 65 minutes after crossing the Gaza border unopposed. One Hamas fighter in the video commented, “Where are all the soldiers?”

Sources speaking with UK’s Mail on Sunday said that only two out of 32 brigades of the Israeli army were close to the Gaza border at the time of the attack.

Three battalions had been moved to the occupied West Bank on the eve of the Simchat Torah holiday, allegedly to protect Israeli settlers who wished to pray in the Palestinian village of Hawara. In March 2023, a mob of settlers invaded the town, burning cars and homes and killing one Palestinian man.

Further, the New York Times reported that large numbers of soldiers had been given leave from the Gaza border areas for the holiday.

The initial lack of resistance therefore surprised even the Hamas leadership.

Mousa Abu Marzouk of the Hamas political bureau told the New Yorker he had anticipated the Israeli military units deployed around Gaza to be “the strongest divisions, and the most trained,” with “a lot of information and fortifications,” as well as assistance from “intelligence officers who know a lot about our movements.”

But the small numbers of Israeli soldiers present on the border instead retreated in confusion as Hamas attacked. “We never expected that,” Abu Marzouk said.

Hostage Situations

In response to the Hamas attack, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari described how the Israeli army was dealing with multiple “hostage situations” and was responding with both air strikes and ground forces.

On the evening of 7 October, Hagari said the military was “fighting in 22 locations,” adding there was “no community in southern Israel where we do not have forces, in all the towns.”

“There are special forces there with senior commanders and live fire fights are going on there,” he said.

Israel’s air force had carried out strikes in “several locations,” Hagari said, adding there were “hundreds of deaths, including many terrorists.”

The main effort was to “eliminate” all “those who infiltrated Israel and are trying to return to the Gaza Strip,” he said. “First of all, we will strike from the air, and then also with heavy ground means,” he added.

Responding to hostage situations with such overwhelming firepower meant that, at minimum, the safety of the hostages was not a priority, and at maximum, the army had decided to kill them deliberately.

On 10 October, after Hamas had successfully taken many hostages to Gaza, Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan similarly told CNN that the situation of the hostages would not “prevent us from doing what we need to do in order to secure the future of Israel.”

“We have an unprecedented number of hostages,” Erdan said, estimating the number was between 100 and 150.According to a later investigation by Yedioth Ahronoth, “at noon on October 7, the IDF [Israeli army] ordered all of its combat units in practice to use the ‘Hannibal Procedure’ although without clearly mentioning this explicitly by name.”

Unbeknownst to the Israeli public and outside observers seeing footage of the attack emerge in real time on social media, the order was given to Israeli forces to stop “at all costs any attempt by Hamas terrorists to return to Gaza, that is, despite the fear that some of them have abductees.”

The Hannibal Directive was hinted at when, as the Guardian reported, Israel’s influential finance minister and settler leader, Bezalel Smotrich, urged the Israeli army to “hit Hamas brutally and not take the matter of the captives into significant consideration [emphasis mine]” during a cabinet meeting late on 7 October as the Hamas attack was still underway.

Philistine Horsemen

Under the cover of the rocket barrage, Hamas fighters broke through the border fence and quickly overran the Erez border crossing on the northern Gaza-Israel border. Erez is where thousands of Palestinians cross to work within Israel each day, and where the offices of COGAT, the Israeli government division responsible for coordinating civilian matters in the occupied Palestinian territories, is located.

Haaretz described how, “The Coordination and Liaison Office was attacked on October 7 together with all the outposts along the division’s line. A large Hamas force seized the adjacent Erez Crossing, which was closed for the Simchat Torah holiday. From there, within minutes and with no resistance, they advanced into the military base, killing, and kidnapping the soldiers of the Civil Administration, though a few of them managed to return fire before being hit.”

From there, Hamas fighters sought to penetrate further north into Israel, but were soon confronted by members of Israel’s Border Police.

According to a report by the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF), the Border Police were immediately dispatched to various battles around the Gaza envelope as news of the Hamas attack emerged.

The IDSF reports that, “At 6:42 a.m. on Saturday, October 7, 2023, as soon as the first alert signaled an incursion of Hamas terrorists, the Southern District Commander of the Israel Police — Maj. Gen. Amir Cohen — gave the order code-named ‘Philistine Horseman,’ sending police officers, and Border Police who were on alert, to the sites of battle to put their training into practice.”

The rapid response of the Border Police was crucial in halting the advance of the Hamas fighters further north from Gaza to Ashkelon and potentially even Tel Aviv.

The Times of Israel reported that according to a police assessment, “had there not been a [substantial] police deployment at Yad Mordechai, the terrorists would have been on their way to Rishon Lezion in 30 minutes, and in Tel Aviv in 40 minutes. And we would have been in a completely different story.”

Control of the Highways

While successful in blocking a Hamas advance north, the Border Police units had more difficulty moving south to confront Hamas fighters who had broken through the fence in multiple other locations to attack military bases and settlements.

The Times of Israel reported that Hamas swiftly took “control of highways in the region and set up ambushes on the key roads leading south.”

The New York Times also noted that according to senior Israeli officials, Hamas fighters were posted to “key road junctions to ambush Israeli reinforcements.”

To take control of the highways and strategic junctions, Hamas fighters opened fire on cars, civilian and police, alike.

Because the kibbutzim surrounding Gaza are both residential communities and military garrisons, it was inevitable that any Hamas effort to attack Israeli military targets to break the siege of Gaza would bring them in contact with civilians as well.

This was further complicated by the fact that the local security teams for each kibbutz used civilian vehicles, as do elite Border Police commando teams, such as Yamam and Team Tequila, which were the first units dispatched on 7 October. These units often went into the West Bank and Gaza dressed as Palestinians and driving civilian cars to carry out assassinations and abductions.

Hamas fighters therefore appear to have opened fire on every car they encountered, killing civilians in many cases, as they secured the roads and highways.

In one body cam clip, Hamas fighters pull the body of a woman they shot and killed from the passenger seat of her red sedan on the side of the road.

In another case, dash cam footage shows a car driving on a road encountering multiple Hamas fighters forming a check point. The car does not stop, and the fighters open fire, killing the driver. The car then comes to a slow stop on the side of the road after bumping into another car.

Additional body cam footage shows the aftermath of Hamas fighters opening fire on two cars at the Gama junction in preparation for attacking the Re’im military base. The video shows a Hamas fighter arrive on his motorcycle to join his fellow fighters while the bloody corpses of four Israeli civilians lay in the road after being pulled out of their vehicles.

The Division was Compelled

The Re’im military base, home to the Gaza division of the Israeli army and down the road from a kibbutz of the same name, was the most important Hamas target on 7 October.

The importance of the base was underscored by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia, a former head of the military’s Southern Command, who explained the division command as well as the command centers for both Gaza brigades were stationed at the same base. As a result, a single effective assault would allow Hamas to eliminate the command structure responsible for coordinating all military activity in the region.

“In the same camp, you had all three of them — in the same location… What a mistake. What a mistake,” he told the Times of Israel.

The liberal Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz published a lengthy article on 13 October describing how an Israeli commander, Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld of the Gaza division, made the difficult choice of calling in airstrikes on his own base at Re’im to repel the attack.

Barricaded in the division’s subterranean war room, Rosenfeld tried “desperately to rescue and organize the sector under attack. Many of the soldiers, most of them not combat personnel, were killed or wounded outside. The division was compelled to request an aerial strike against the base itself in order to repulse the terrorists.”

Yedioth Ahronoth detailed how Hamas fighters engaged in an hours-long gun battle with members of Shaldag, an Air Force special forces unit, inside the base and just 50 meters from the base’s operations room.

“The battle came to an end when a helicopter shot a missile into the gym where the remaining terrorists were barricaded,” the paper reported.

This raises the question of whether the helicopter strike killed not only Hamas fighters but also Israeli soldiers battling or held captive them at the Re’im base.

What Happened at Sderot?

When Hamas fighters entered the town of Sderot, just north of Gaza, they also opened fire on cars, killing and injuring civilians.

One video shows a civilian vehicle passing a white pick-up truck full of Hamas fighters at a roundabout as they enter the town. The Israeli driver stops abruptly as he sees another truck full of Hamas fighters approaching.

The driver gets out of the car and grabs his young daughter and begins to run. The first truck then turns around and a Hamas fighter opens fire at the driver, injuring him. The fighters then drive away, leaving the young girl standing next to her injured father lying on the sidewalk.

After entering Sderot, the Hamas fighters quickly headed for their main target, the sprawling police station.

As the fighters gather outside the station, CCTV footage shows a car pull up on the road in front of it and stop. A fighter walks up to the car and shoots the driver from point-blank range.

Footage from the same CCTV camera shows fighters open fire on another civilian car as it approaches. The fighters kill the driver, a mother named Odaya Swissa. The fighters leave her two young children who are seated in the back seat of the car and later rescued by Israeli police.

Another video shows Hamas fighters fire an RPG at a police SUV driving directly towards them at the police station. The SUV has no police markings, but a flashing blue siren light can be seen on the dash as the car approaches.

The Hamas fighters successfully captured the police station, taking several police officers captive and barricading themselves inside. Members of Yamam were deployed to respond. The ensuing gun battle lasted over 20 hours.

The Pressure Cooker

According to the Jerusalem Post, Maj. Gen. Cohen of the Border Police finally instructed his forces to carry out what he referred to as a “pressure cooker” operation to resolve the situation.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that once the Yamam unit surrounding the police station realized how difficult it was to get the barricaded Hamas fighters out, they requested Col. Benny Aharon, Commander of the Israeli army’s 401st Brigade, to open fire with a tank.

Aharon stated that after he fired the tank shells, “the building was set on fire, suffocating the terrorists.”

Video from the Apache helicopter shows multiple airstrikes also being launched at the station.

One policeman present at the battle said the “hard decision” was made to destroy the police station on the “heads of the terrorists” using the tank and helicopter fire.

He said that about 11 police had been trapped in the station, of which two survived when a crane was brought to extract them from the roof before the station was destroyed.

It is unclear whether the other nine police officers were killed by the Hamas fighters, or if they were being held captive by the Hamas fighters when the building was destroyed and suffocated to death under the rubble along with them.

Journalist Stephanie Freid of China’s CGTN visited the city a week later and recounted the battle for the police station. She reported that “Up to 20 people here were killed, including prisoners that were being held at the station.”

Journalist Palki Sharma from First Post also visited Sderot in the aftermath of the battle. She described events at the police station saying it was “the site of an intense gun battle that lasted some 20 hours … A tank was brought to the scene, and there were ten Hamas terrorists who were couped up inside, who were fighting from inside, and they’ve all been neutralized. And now this police station is being razed to the ground.”

What Happened at the Nahal Oz Military Base?

The military base at Nahal Oz, which lies just 1 km from the Gaza border, was also overrun.

During the Hamas assault on the base, 66 soldiers were killed, including many from Israel’s elite Golani Brigade, which had devastated the Shuja’iyya district of Gaza City in 2014. Among the dead at Nahal Oz were 15 female surveillance soldiers, whose warnings about a looming Hamas attack months before were ignored.

Parents of the female soldiers were angry the warnings had been dismissed by senior officers, and that the army did not dispatch reinforcements to save them.

When the parents were finally allowed to visit the base three months later, Eshel, the father of one female soldier, explained, “This is a difficult sight for all of us. The girls were there from 6:30 a.m., and for six hours nobody came to rescue them, to help them. It’s incomprehensible.”

“The parents cried. We saw the girls’ workstations. What was once a state-of-the-art command center, how it was all burned down,” he explained.

Lior Glass, the father of another soldier, said, “I felt my stomach churning. My daughter was burned there.”

Ran, a soldier in Israel’s elite Lotar counterterrorism unit, described the effort to retake the Nahal Oz base. Some of the soldiers “were killed and burned alive,” he said. “You can imagine what they did to the bodies, and the amount of things I’ve seen, it’s not even close to what a human being is. I can’t imagine what drives them to do such things… We saved as many soldiers as we could,” Ran claimed.

The army told the parents their daughters were burned when “an unspecified but toxic flammable substance” was thrown through the entrance of the base command center. The “toxic gas” caused suffocation and loss of consciousness within a few minutes of exposure, Channel 12 reported.

But this seems an odd explanation, especially as the army did not identify the substance.

Crucially, the army was dealing with a hostage situation at the Nahal Oz base. Hamas took six female soldiers captive, including four who were still being held in Gaza as of January 2024.

This raises the question of whether the Hannibal Directive was implemented at Nahal Oz.

What Happened at Kibbutz Be’eri?

But Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari and the army were not only dealing with hostage situations involving soldiers and police, but civilians as well.

In addition to attacking military bases, Hamas fighters soon attacked several kibbutzim where they also took hostages.

In Be’eri, CCTV video from 6:55 am shows two Hamas fighters sneak up to the security gate at the entrance of the kibbutz and then hide. When a car with two men arrives and the gate opens, the Hamas fighters open fire, killing both. They then enter the kibbutz.

According to Reuters, once the infiltration was detected, the head of the kibbutz security team notified the army and sent a message to all the kibbutz residents to warn them. Members of the team then gathered weapons and went to confront the Hamas fighters, hoping to hold them off until the Israeli army could arrive. Gun battles erupted which lasted for hours.

During this time, Hamas fighters were able to enter the homes of kibbutz residents, in some cases killing them, in others taking them hostage back to Gaza.

Many residents sought to barricade themselves in the safe rooms of their homes, which were meant to protect kibbutz residents from rocket barrages, but which usually had no locks on the doors. The families used whatever they could to block the door to the safe rooms and prevent the Hamas fighters from entering.

Around 8:30 am, a dozen members of the Israeli Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit arrived by helicopter to retake the kibbutz, the Jerusalem Post reported.

A commander, identified only as Lt. Col. B, said his unit was met with heavy gunfire when they arrived. Though several of his commandos were immediately killed or wounded, he claimed they were able to kill 20 Hamas fighters.

The New York Times documented the case of the Bachar family, who fled to their safe room when Hamas fighters entered their home at 10:05 am, according to messages sent by the family to their friends. By 11:23 am, a group of fighters was trying to break inside the safe room.

To break into the safe room, the fighters opened fire at the door, hitting the father, Avida, 50, in the legs and son Carmel, 15, in the hand and abdomen, on the other side. Rather than enter, the fighters lit the house on fire, and when the family opened the window for air, the fighters threw hand grenades inside, further injuring Avida and also his daughter Hadar, 13. The fighters also shot into the room, hitting the mother, Dana. By the time the army reached their home that evening, Carmel and Dana were dead.

In another case, the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reported that Sandra and Ohad Cohen, together with their three children, ages 9 years, 3 years, and 10 months, huddled together in their safe room. Hamas fighters shot at the safe room door, killing their 10-month-old daughter, Mila, on the other side. Her nine-year-old brother was grazed in the head by shrapnel.

The father then left the safe room and went outside to the porch, where he was allegedly bound by Hamas fighters and shot.

The fighters then took the mother and the two remaining kids, along with an elderly woman in a wheelchair and her Filipino caretaker, Gracie, as hostages and started to walk to the kibbutz gate to take them back to Gaza.

JNS writes that Israeli security forces suddenly appeared and in “the ensuing shootout Sandra Cohen was hit four times in the lung and once each in the arm and leg, but called on her two kids to escape together to a neighboring house.”

Because Sandra and her children were being taken by Hamas fighters to the border, this suggests Sandra was shot in the crossfire by Israeli forces.

The crossfire could have come from the kibbutz security team, or from members of the Shaldag commando unit.

Members of the Yamam commando units were also dispatched to Be’eri early in the morning on 7 October, long before the regular army was able to respond. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Yamam units “went from house to house, killing terrorists in them” in Be’eri and elsewhere.

When the Cameras Are Off

The case of Sandra Cohen, who was injured in the crossfire as Hamas fighters tried to take her captive back to Gaza, raises questions about other similar cases.

The Washington Post published footage of Hamas fighters on foot trying to take four Be’eri residents back to Gaza roughly an hour and a half after the attack began.

The Post writes that, “In the video, the civilians appear to have their hands tied behind their backs and are being led by men in military clothing carrying AR-style weapons down a residential street. Some walk barefoot. Black smoke billows in the distance.”

Crucially, the video shows the group as they approach an intersection that is guarded by a gate, leading out of Be’eri toward Gaza.

The video ends there, but the Post provides another video, taken later, showing the same four civilians who are now dead and lying near the same exit gate. The Post claims that the Hamas fighters must have executed their captives but acknowledges it cannot verify when the second video was filmed.

It is unclear why the Hamas fighters would bother to tie the hands of the hostages and lead them towards Gaza. If they simply wished to execute them, the fighters could have just shot the captives in their homes.

One possibility is that they were accidentally killed in the crossfire during an encounter with Israeli forces. Another is that they were killed deliberately by Israeli forces to prevent them being taken captive.

As noted above, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari stated it was his goal to “eliminate” all “those who infiltrated Israel and are trying to return to the Gaza Strip.” Per the Hannibal Directive, this would include killing the Israeli civilians with them.

Not to Mention the Helicopter

Such a view is strengthened by testimony both from kibbutz residents, as well as Israeli military personnel.

One Israeli woman who was taken captive to Gaza on 7 October gave such a testimony. In a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other war cabinet members after her release in a prisoner exchange, she explained that an Apache helicopter opened fire on her as she was being taken to Gaza. Further, she stated the area where she was being held captive in Gaza was then shelled by Israeli artillery.

She explained that, “The feeling we had there [in Gaza] was that no one was doing anything for us. The fact is that I was in a hiding place that was shelled [by the Israeli army] and we had to be smuggled out while we were wounded. Not to mention the helicopter that shot at us on the way to Gaza. You claim that there is intelligence [indicating where the hostages are], but the fact is that we were being shelled.”

As Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone observed in his important review of events on 7 October, Israeli helicopter pilots acknowledged opening fire without knowing if they were shooting at Israeli civilians, Hamas fighters, or both.

Blumenthal wrote that “one Apache pilot reflected on the tortuous dilemma of whether to shoot at people and cars returning to Gaza. He knew that many of those vehicles may have contained Israeli captives. But he chose to open fire anyway.”

“I choose targets like that,” the pilot stated in an interview with Israel’s Mako news outlet, “where I tell myself that the chance that I am shooting here on hostages as well is low.” However, he admitted that his judgment “was not 100%.”

“I understand that we have to shoot here and quickly,” the commander of an Apache helicopter unit, Lt. Col. E., told Mako in a separate report noted by Blumenthal. “Shooting at people in our territory – this is something I never thought I would do.”

Lt. Col. A., a reserve pilot in the same unit, described how, “I find myself in a dilemma as to what to shoot at, because there are so many of them.” However, the pilot was determined to “empty the belly” of his US-supplied attack helicopter.

Shoot at Everything

Blumenthal noted another 15 October report from Yedioth Ahronoth which explained that the first helicopters arrived near the Gaza border area about an hour after the fighting began.

The Hebrew language newspaper reports that the mission of the combat helicopters was to stop the flow of Hamas fighters and Palestinian looters that poured into Israeli territory through the gaps in the Gaza border fence.

This was complicated by the difficulty the pilots had in distinguishing between Hamas fighters, Palestinian looters dressed in civilian clothing, and Israelis.

The pilots claimed Hamas deliberately tried to confuse them in this way, but this did not stop them from opening fire. Yedioth Aharanoth reports further that, “This deception worked for a considerable time, until the Apache pilots realized that they had to skip all the restrictions. It was only around 9:00 a.m. that some of them began to spray the terrorists with the cannons on their own, without authorization from superiors.”

“The rate of fire against the thousands of terrorists was tremendous at first, and only at a certain point did the pilots begin to slow down the attacks and carefully select the target,” the paper added.

Despite the confusion, twenty-eight Israeli combat helicopters fired all of the ammunition they were holding, including hundreds of 30 mm explosive shells and Hellfire missiles, during the course of the day.

After landing his Apache to reload ammunition at roughly 10:00 am, the commander of the 190 Squadron instructed the other pilots “to shoot at everything they see in the fence area,” separating Israel from Gaza.

The same commander at one point attacked an Israeli military post with besieged soldiers inside to help the Israeli army recapture it from Hamas. He said he also opened fire near houses in a kibbutz in support of an officer from the Sinai division who had parachuted in to battle Hamas fighters.

According to the Israeli Air Force, in the first four hours from the start of the fighting, helicopters and fighter jets (drones) attacked about 300 targets, most of them in Israeli territory, Yedioth Aharanoth added further.

A Mass Hannibal Event

But were these pilots actually trying to avoid killing Israeli civilians being taken back to Gaza captive?

Israeli Air Force (reserve) Colonel Nof Erez suggested the pilots deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, describing the response of Israel’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters on the Gaza border as a “mass Hannibal” event.

In an interview with Haaretz on 15 November, he explained that “within two or three hours, they put no small number of helicopters in the air: 10 am, I believe. The first ones, even by 7:15 am,” and that “The Hannibal directive was probably deployed because once you detect a hostage situation, this is Hannibal.”

Colonel Erez stated that normally, Israeli commanders would be faced with situations where just one soldier is being taken captive.

“The Hannibal we have been drilling for in the past 20 years was relating to a vehicle, you know what point in the fence it would come in, on what side of the road it would move, and even on which road.”

But near the Gaza border on 7 October, “What we saw here was a mass Hannibal. There were many openings in the fence, thousands of people in many different vehicles, with hostages and without,” he concluded.

On an Undreamt-of Scale

Many vehicles carrying Hamas fighters were targeted not only by Apache attack helicopters, but by armed Zik drones, which were also quick to respond to the Hamas attack, as early as 7:14 am.

As noted above, Mishpacha Magazine interviewed members of Squadron 161, which operates Israel’s fleet of Hermes 450 Zik drones, for details of the role they played on 7 October.

“The squadron was facing a scenario they had never imagined, on an undreamt-of scale, and above all, having to carry out strikes inside Israeli territory, inside bases, inside kibbutzim, something they had never prepared for,” the magazine added.

“Who ever thought we would have to carry out strikes inside Israeli territory, and on that scale? That was a scenario we had never imagined,” stated an air force officer identified as “First Lieutenant A.”

He explained that there were initially no Israeli forces on the ground, and so he and other drone operators were using their cell phones to communicate with civilians in the kibbutzim for the locations of Hamas fighters to hit with airstrikes. “We eliminated dozens of terrorists this way. You talk to a civilian, receive a location, release your payload, and return to base. Again and again, like a movie,” he said.

In one case, three Hamas fighters were killed when an airstrike targeted them in a civilian car at the entrance to Kibbutz Be’eri.

The Israeli army posted a video of the destroyed car and burnt corpses, claiming they were Israeli civilians killed by Hamas.

South First Responders, a Telegram group with links to the Israeli army, first posted the video saying it showed “a car full of civilians which appears to have tried to escape the attack from the Kibbutz, and, like many others, were ambushed by Hamas terrorists and burned alive. We can see the remains in the car, including a couple in the back seat that appear to have died in each others’ arms.”

However, Ahmed Abofaul of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq analyzed the same videos and recognized that the roof of the car clearly showed evidence of a missile strike from above. The wreckage of the car resembled that from many similar cases of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in previous years he had witnessed.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev later acknowledged that Hamas fighters who had been killed by Israeli forces and burned to death were mistaken for Israeli civilians.

In an interview with MSNBC on 17 November, he stated, “We originally said, in the atrocious Hamas attack upon our people on October 7th, we had the number at 1,400 casualties and now we’ve revised that down to 1,200 because we understood that we’d overestimated, we made a mistake. There were actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours, in the end apparently they were Hamas terrorists.”

Certain Prioritizations

Crucially, the drone operators targeted not only Hamas fighters but also their Israeli captives. “On each flight, they killed dozens of terrorists, prevented them from advancing further into Israel or returning to the Strip with captives, and helped stop the attack [Emphasis mine],” Mishpacha wrote.

First Lieutenant A explained further that, “There were images we had never seen before. One of the advantages of our aircraft is the high quality of the cameras. Now they served us well. We saw everything. The massacre, the horrors.”

When asked why they did not send aircraft to the border fence to attack every cell trying to enter Israel or return to Gaza with captives, First Lieutenant A, explained, “I can’t go into the way the air force works and what exactly we did, for understandable reasons, but I can tell you that we worked on that front too.”

He continued by saying, “At the end of the day, there are certain prioritizations that the public is not aware of, and there are things we can’t do for a variety of reasons. But believe me that we did do that as well.”

The first lieutenant’s mention of “certain prioritizations that the public is not aware of” appears to be an admission that the Hannibal Directive was invoked to prevent Hamas taking captives back across the border fence.

Like a Madman

In addition to taking captives back to Gaza, Hamas fighters apparently took over many homes in the kibbutzim and remained in them, creating multiple hostage situations. This may have been due to the helicopters and drones targeting the border fence area, making a return to Gaza for the fighters dangerous. Instead of trying to return, they barricaded themselves in homes with hostages.

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster quoted an official at Kibbutz Be’eri as saying on 7 October that “Many houses have been taken over, there are hostages, there are dead and wounded.”

The Jewish Chronicle reported that a video clip showing “at least 10 men entering residential buildings,” had emerged, “amid reports that Hamas gunmen were holding hostages at the kibbutz dining hall.”

In response, the Israeli military responded with airstrikes from armed drones and attack helicopters within the kibbutz itself. The Jewish Chronicle notes further that “The IDF on Saturday night released footage of an airstrike on a terror squad in Kibbutz Be’eri.”

Further, Haaretz reported that “According to Be’eri members, some of the kibbutz was destroyed by the army’s attack helicopters, which shot dead hundreds of terrorists.” The paper noted that “350 dead bodies were found on the kibbutz grounds, most of them terrorists.”

The Haaretz report notes as well that based on comments from Be’eri residents who later returned to the kibbutz, “one-third of the houses are irreparable.”

Reports of such air strikes quickly spread on social media. Noam Lanir, a prominent Israeli investor and former drone pilot in the army, wrote on X on 7 October that his close friend, an Apache helicopter pilot, had “shot into the kibbutzim like a madman.”

All Kinds of Conspiracy Theories

Haaretz journalist Lior Kodner reported that the presence of Apache helicopters and drones led to “rumors that the army exploded all kinds of houses inside the settlements, the Hannibal Directive, and all kinds of conspiracy theories running around in the first few days.”

When Kodner asked Colonel (res.) Nof Erez (mentioned above) about these rumors, he confirmed that the army had blown up houses using airstrikes, killing not only Hamas fighters but Israelis as well.

Erez suggests that some Israelis were killed due to the difficulty of distinguishing between friendly and enemy forces.

“There is a serious problem with using drones on our territory when we don’t know who is the enemy and who is the emergency squad, and who are our soldiers.”

But the drone and helicopter pilots launching airstrikes were not destroying homes by accident or mistake. “They didn’t explode houses without permission. By the way I saw numerous drones above every settlement on a computer image, which we can see in every IDF command,” Erez explained.

Further, Erez suggests the killing of some Israelis in houses taken over by Hamas in the kibbutzim was also likely deliberate.

“The Hannibal Directive was apparently applied at a certain stage, because at the moment they understand there is a kidnapping, they immediately say, ‘Guys, this is Hannibal,’” Erez told Kodner.

Nothing Would Have Been Left of Us

But while helicopters and drones were carrying out strikes in Be’eri from the early hours of the Hamas attack, where were the army’s ground troops?

As noted above, the local security team had notified the army of the Hamas infiltration at 7:15 am, but its men were largely left on their own on the ground to battle Hamas fighters for hours.

The only help they apparently received was from some members of Israeli Special Forces units, which helped coordinate airstrikes.

According to Yair Avital, a member of the local security detail who battled Hamas fighters at a dental clinic in Be’eri, large numbers of soldiers had been deployed to the kibbutz but remained just outside it.

Avital told Israel’s Channel 12 that when he was evacuated at 6:30 pm on 7 October, “The thing I remember the most, and the most traumatizing thing for me from this ordeal, was [being evacuated after hours of fighting and] arriving at the entrance to the kibbutz and seeing 500 soldiers stationed in an organized and orderly manner, standing and looking at us.”

The hundreds of soldiers, who had dogs, equipment, weapons, and armored vehicles, did nothing.

“I remember shouting at them from the stretcher, ‘They’re slaughtering us! Go in! Save us!’ and none of them looked at me, none of them said anything,” Avital explained.

The army’s response was so slow that kibbutz residents were giving interviews with Israeli media pleading for help as the battle raged and long before the army arrived.

Israel Hayom published a story at 12:36 pm on 7 October stating that, “Residents in the Gaza area took to the public airwaves – including by calling into live broadcasts on television and radio – to call for help as terrorists went on a killing spree following the Hamas onslaught that began early Saturday.”

The paper quoted one Be’eri resident, Dvir Efrat, 21, as saying, “We have terrorists roaming between the neighborhoods causing chaos. The preparedness class is on alert, and we hear gunfire of all kinds. We are really scared. I don’t understand the situation; there are already several casualties. I’m with my partner in the safe room.”

The next day, Haaretz reported on the delay in deploying ground troops to Be’eri and other kibbutzim. The paper explained that some logistical issues delayed the response, such as a lack of buses to transport mobilized soldiers south to the battle zone.

However, Haaretz commented further that, “It is unclear why the IDF chose to leave large and select forces for hours, at points far from the locales under attack, rather than introduce them to the scene as soon as possible.”

They Eliminated Everyone

When the army did arrive, Israeli commanders deployed Merkava tanks to respond to the hostage situations which had by then been underway for hours.

As journalist Dan Cohen reported, Erez Tidhar, a rescue and evacuation volunteer for the Eitam unit of the army who deployed to Be’eri, described how he witnessed strikes on the kibbutz from both Apache helicopters and tanks.

“Every minute a missile comes down on you, every minute,” Tidhar recalled to state broadcaster Kan. “And suddenly you see a missile from a helicopter that fires into the kibbutz. You say to yourself, ‘I don’t get it. An IDF helicopter firing into an Israeli kibbutz.’ And then you see a tank driving through the streets of the kibbutz flanking the cannon and it fires a shell into a house. These are things you cannot comprehend.”

The Hannibal Directive appeared to be on display once again when Israeli tank fire destroyed a home in Be’eri in which Hamas fighters had barricaded themselves along with 15 hostages.

Among the hostages was 44-year-old Yasmin Porat and her partner, who had fled to the kibbutz from the Nova music festival which was also the scene of a major battle that morning.

Porat was one of only two Israeli captives held in the home who survived. She stated in a radio interview to Kan that the others were killed not by their Hamas captors, but by the Israeli army.

Porat said she and the other hostages were held for several hours in the home of Pesi Cohen, guarded by 40 Hamas fighters. She said that the fighters treated them “humanely” and “their objective was to kidnap us to Gaza. Not to murder us.”

However, when Israeli special forces from Yamam arrived hours later, they surrounded the house and started a gun battle with the Hamas fighters in which four or five hostages were killed. Porat saw their bodies lying on the lawn outside the house, and according to her, Israeli forces “undoubtedly” killed them.

“They eliminated everyone, including the hostages,” the mother of three, told Kan. “There was very, very heavy crossfire.”

Realizing they were surrounded, one Hamas fighter decided to surrender. He stripped to his underwear then exited the house using Porat as a human shield. The fighter was detained and Porat freed.

However, Porat explains further that the “insane crossfire,” then continued, and the Israeli military shot two tank shells into the house where the remaining hostages were being held. “It’s a small kibbutz house, nothing big. You saw it on the news. Not a large place. And at that moment everyone was killed,” except one.

The other survivor, Hadas Dagan, confirmed as well that when the Israeli tank arrived, two shells were fired and then, “there was complete silence.”

Israel’s Channel 12 later published video taken by a police helicopter showing a tank shooting a shell at the house some time before the shell was fired that killed the hostages. Channel 12 also quoted Porat as asking a soldier if the tank shells would not harm the other captives still inside. The soldier replied that “they only do it on the sides to take down walls.”

Three of those killed in the home were 12-year-old Liel Hetzroni, her twin brother Yanai, and their aunt Ayla, who raised them. Israeli broadcaster Kan reported that Liel’s relatives held a farewell ceremony for her, rather than a burial ceremony, because her body could not be found in the rubble.

When the remains of Liel’s body were finally identified, only ash and bone fragments remained.

After her death, Liel became the poster girl for illustrating Hamas’ alleged atrocities on 7 October, as Max Blumenthal detailed.

Though Liel was killed by the Israeli army, Naftali Bennett, the former Israeli prime minister, expressed his outrage over her death on the social media site X over a month later. He claimed “Liel Hetzroni of Kibbutz Beeri was murdered in her home by Hamas monsters.”

Bennett used the death of a young girl killed by Israeli tank fire to justify the killing of thousands of Palestinian children by Israeli fire as well. “We’re fighting the most just war [in Gaza]: to ensure this can never happen again,” Bennett claimed.

By that time, Israeli forces had killed over 4,650 Palestinian children and injured thousands more during its bombing campaign in Gaza.

Maybe an Order Was Received?

On 15 November, Keren Neubach, a journalist and television presenter the Kan broadcaster, spoke with Omri Shafroni, a member of Kibbutz Be’eri and a relative of Liel.

Omri was still not sure how Liel was killed. “I do not rule out the possibility that Liel and others were killed by IDF [Israeli army] fire. It could be that they died from the terrorists’ fire, or it could be that they died from the IDF’s fire, because there was a very heavy firefight. I don’t know and I don’t want to just say.”

But he was angry the Israeli government refused to investigate what happened in Be’eri that day, despite the testimonies that emerged.

“We have known what Yasmin told for more than a month, we heard it from Yasmin and Hadas and from our people from the kibbutz whose relatives were killed there. But no official came and told us what happened in this house,” Omri stated.

“There is no investigation into what happened in the house, this is also why Liel is still listed as missing. We have known for over a month that Liel was killed, murdered, in this house. And there are simply no findings, nothing remains of this amazing girl, full of light. And we hang between heaven and earth.”

Omri added, “But it is very strange to me that until now we have not conducted an operational investigation into an event in which 13 hostages were apparently murdered and no negotiations were carried out.”

“Maybe an order was received that it is impossible to negotiate under these conditions? I don’t know, but until now we have not done any operational investigation. And no one is there to talk to us about what happened in the event.”

This eventually led to discussions in Israeli media of whether the Hannibal Directive had been applied. On 13 December, Haaretz journalist Noa Limone wrote that events at the Cohen house in Be’eri where Liel was killed “give the impression that the Israel Defense Forces employed the so-called Hannibal Directive,” and “we need to talk about it now.”

“Was the Hannibal Directive applied to civilians?” she demanded to know.

On 22 December, an Israeli brigadier general, Barak Hiram, finally acknowledged giving the order to open fire with a tank on the home while speaking with the New York Times.

Hiram says that around 4 pm, after the Hamas fighter surrendered with Yasmin Porat, a Yamam commander argued that more might also surrender. But Hiram demanded the hostage situation be resolved by nightfall.

He claims that shortly thereafter, Hamas fighters launched an RPG from the house. Hiram then told the tank commander: “The negotiations are over. Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

In an interview with Channel 12 on 26 October, before he had publicly acknowledged killing Israeli hostages in Be’eri, the general alluded to the logic of his actions on 7 October. He stated, “I am very afraid that if we return to Sarona [Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv] and try to hold all kinds of negotiations, we may fall into a trap that will tie our hands and not allow us to do what is required, which is to go in, manipulate, and kill them [Hamas]”

In other words, avoiding negotiations and killing Hamas was the priority, saving the lives of the hostages was not, and this laid the groundwork for the mass Hannibal event that occurred in Be’eri, the Gaza border, and elsewhere on 7 October.

Despite Brigadier General Hiram’s admission, the New York Times story appears to be a deliberate effort to cover up the mass Hannibal nature of events in Be’eri, portraying events at the Cohen home as an exceptional event; a spontaneous decision made by one rogue general.

The New York Times suggested “a single tank” was in Be’eri that “fired two light shells at the house [emphasis mine].” The story mentioned the deaths of those killed by Israeli forces only in the passive voice and made no mention of Apache helicopters or drones attacking the kibbutz, nor of Yamam counter-terror units going house to house killing Hamas fighters.

With All Their Occupants Inside

But the claim that the killing of hostages at the Cohen house was an isolated event is contradicted by a report from the Financial Times from 12 October stating, “Several residential buildings were severely damaged or reduced to rubble because of what military officials said were tank operations to rescue residents of the kibbutz [emphasis mine].” The report ignored that saving hostages and reducing homes to rubble with tank fire are contradictory actions.

A report by Haaretz journalist Nir Hasson from 20 October also confirmed the Israeli army shelled multiple houses in Be’eri, likely killing the Israelis inside them.

Hasson reports that according to a resident of Be’eri named Tuval Escapa, whose partner was killed in the Hamas attack, it was “only after the commanders in the field made difficult decisions – including shelling houses with their occupants inside to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages – did the IDF [Israeli army] complete the takeover of the kibbutz. The price was terrible. A least 112 people from Be’eri were killed.”

The Haaretz report notes further that, “Yesterday, 11 days after the massacre, the bodies of a mother and her son were discovered in one of the destroyed houses. It is believed that more bodies are still lying in the rubble.”

Two days before, another Israeli media outlet, i24 News, had stated on X that, “Nine days after the Hamas attack, bodies still being pulled out of the destroyed homes in Be’eri.”

But none of these reports questioned the narrative that Hamas had “murdered” all 112 Be’eri residents killed that day. The damage to the bodies done by the tank, or drone, or helicopter fire was instead attributed to Hamas. The Israeli military and media claimed Hamas fighters had tortured, raped, and then burned the bodies, and this explanation was widely accepted by the victims’ families.

This is illustrated by the case of Eil Sharabi, who is still missing and whose wife and daughters’ remains were eventually found in the safe room of their home.

The remains of Eli’s Israeli-British wife, Lianne, were found first. On 17 October the Times of London reported the two daughters and father were missing, but “relatives were informed that Lianne’s dead body had been identified from dental records.”

Two weeks later, relatives told the BBC the remains of Lianne’s two daughters had also been found. They had been next to their mother all along, but finally identified by their DNA. The relatives were told the teenage girls were found by a soldier, allegedly “all cuddled together with Lianne.”

Because there was so little left of the bodies that the remains could only be identified through DNA and dental records, this indicates they were burned and obliterated beyond recognition after tank or helicopter fire destroyed the house, like in the case of Liel Hetzroni.

Had Hamas killed them, the bodies would likely be intact. They would be riddled with machine gun fire or with blue toned skin from suffocating to death had Hamas fighters lit the home on fire, causing smoke to seep under the door into the safe room. It would not have taken weeks to find the bodies and all three would have been found at the same time in the safe room, rather than their remains being identified weeks apart.

But Eli’s brother was convinced they had been killed by Hamas.

“They breached the fence and mercilessly slaughtered nearly everyone,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “They entered Eli and Leanne’s home, and murdered Leanne, Noya, and Yahel. Eli is still missing.”

“It’s difficult to describe what happened because it’s incredibly painful, but they were killed in a brutal way,” he said. “Leanne could only be identified through dental records, and Noya through DNA analysis. Just last night, before meeting President Isaac Herzog, I received news about Noya. It devastated us.”

“Three were murdered, and my brother Eli is still missing. It wouldn’t surprise me if his body was among the unrecognizable ones in the camp. They experienced a horrific massacre, with their bodies being treated in a brutal manner.”

And it was not just the Sharabi family that was likely killed by Israeli forces, but their neighbors as well.

The BBC added that “Their house was one of the nearest to the fence where the Hamas soldiers came in. Everybody on the street was killed or badly injured,” suggesting Israeli helicopter or tank fire hit the entire street.

They’re Shooting Grenades at Us

The case of an elderly couple in Be’eri, Amir and Mati Weiss, is similar.

A report by Haaretz included a picture of their home, which showed a huge hole in the front of the house, almost large enough to drive a car through, dozens of bullet holes, and damage to the roof so extensive it had separated from the house’s structure. Multiple trees in the front yard have been uprooted and the vegetation is gone, suggesting something struck the front yard. The second floor balcony has disappeared.

To explain the elderly couples’ death, Haaretz writes, “Mati and Amir Weiss were attacked by terrorists who blew up one of the walls of their safe room and shot them.”

The report says that in the first of a series of phone calls to her son, Mati says, “Yuval, they’re inside the house and Dad was shot.”

“Help, they’re shooting at us,” she says in the second.

Her son Yuval, a member of the kibbutz security team, replies, “Mom, be strong,” and promises to give their location to the army.

“Dad was shot again,” Matis says in the third call.

In the fifth call she says: “I’m wounded too,” and adds: “They’re shooting grenades at us. … They’re inside the house.”

It is possible the Hamas fighters shot and injured Amir when first entering the home, but it is unclear why Hamas fighters would be shooting grenades at the house while they were also in it, five phone calls later.

Recall that a soldier told Yasmin Porat in Be’eri the tank shells were shot “on the sides to take down walls.” This closely resembles the Haaretz claim that the wall of the Weiss’ safe room was blown up.

This, combined with the visual evidence of the destruction of the home, both the massive whole in the house and trees ripped out of the ground in front of it, suggests the Mati and Amir were killed by an airstrike from an Apache helicopter or tank shells targeting the home after the Hamas fighters entered.

In other words, their house was likely blown up by the army with permission of commanders watching by camera from their command center, in accordance with the Hannibal directive.

Perversely, the army commanders would have known Hamas fighters were in the home because Yuval, Amir and Mati’s son, had notified them.

We Didn’t Get There in Time

In another case in Be’eri, Hamas fighters invaded the home of Shmulik and Yahudit Weiss. Israeli authorities say Shmulik was murdered by Hamas fighters in the safe room of their home, while his wife Yahudit was taken as a hostage to Gaza.

Shmulik’s body was discovered a week after the 7 October attack.

The Times of Israel reported that one of their children later returned to the couple’s home, “where they believe they can tell that their father engaged in a firefight with a Hamas terrorist before he was killed, and his mother kidnapped.”

Their son Daniel, a musician, later played a concert in the ruins of his parents’ home to commemorate their lives. Video of the concert shows the home had been flattened, with all the walls completely collapsed, likely due to tank or helicopter fire.

The Israeli army claimed its soldiers found Yahudit’s body a month later in Gaza in a structure near the Al-Shifa hospital. The army claimed she was murdered by Hamas, saying that “we didn’t get to her in time,” but did not provide any further details on her death or the timeline of it, the Times of Israel reported.

The army claimed only that its soldiers found assault rifles including AK-47s, RPGs, and other military equipment near Weiss’s body, Al-Jazeera reported.

But because the hostages were very valuable to Hamas, it is unlikely Yahudit’s captors killed her. More likely, she was killed, like thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, by Israeli bombing. The army likely made up the claim that weapons were found near her to justify having bombed the area. Other clear cases of the Israeli army killing hostages held by Hamas, whether as collateral damage or per the Hannibal Directive, are discussed in more detail below.

Family Photos

Further evidence of the Israeli military’s bombing of homes in Be’eri comes from a video report by journalist David Muir for ABC News. Muir was not allowed enter the kibbutz until October 13, when the Israeli military gave him a tour of the destruction.

However, Muir’s video report shows several homes that are heavily damaged, clearly from heavy artillery, tank shells, or airstrikes. He is told by the Israeli military that Hamas had held 14 hostages in one of the homes, likely the home where Liel Hetzroni was killed.

Muir then shows a body of a Hamas fighter wrapped in white plastic with the word “terrorist” written on it.

Muir filmed a segment sitting on top the rubble of one of the completely destroyed homes. He claimed that Hamas committed a massacre there, while pointing to personal items of a dead family that had clearly been placed on the rubble in a staged fashion, including a child’s pink school backpack and framed family photos.

Muir makes no mention of the heavy Israeli crossfire, tank shelling, or airstrikes from the fleet of Zik drones and Apache helicopters, nor of the refusal to negotiate with the Hamas fighters to save the hostages.

Instead, he repeats claims of the two Israeli soldiers providing him a tour of the kibbutz, who say Hamas massacred all 112 people who died in Be’eri during the attack, in addition to the 29 taken hostage to Gaza.

As in Muir’s report, countless stories in the Israeli and western press claiming to document events in Be’eri claimed that the destruction was caused by Hamas fighters going door to door, burning homes and firing RPGs at safe homes to induce the residents to come outside.

It does appear there were cases where Hamas fighters and other Palestinians lit homes on fire, but these accounts omit any mention of Israeli helicopters, drones, and tanks firing on Be’eri like “madmen.” They do not explain the destruction of hundreds of homes, which are visible in photos, videos, and aerial drone footage following the events on 7 October.

Given the overwhelming firepower deployed in Be’eri, it is clear that a huge amount of the destruction, and death, was caused by Israeli forces.

In Be’eri, it is therefore difficult know how many Be’eri residents were killed by Hamas fighters breaking into safe rooms, how many were killed by Israeli forces while being taken captive to Gaza, and how many were killed by Israeli forces while barricaded in their homes with Hamas fighters.

What happened in Be’eri was likely difficult even for members of the kibbutz to know, as they were hiding in their safe rooms and largely unable to look outside to make sense of the chaos happening all around them. It was difficult to know who was shooting outside, and whether homes were being lit on fire by Hamas or Israeli tank, drone and helicopter strikes. Upon emerging from their safe rooms, survivors of the battle assumed the destruction and killing had been caused entirely by Hamas, and they were told this by the army as well.

What Happened at Kibbutz Kfar Azza?

At Kibbutz Kfar Azza, a first responder identifying victims after the Hamas attack told Haaretz, “It’s at the least as terrible, and apparently even worse, than what happened at Kibbutz Be’eri.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that on the afternoon of the battle, a kibbutz resident who had been besieged in his home since 6:30 am stated that, “There is no army and no police here, everything has collapsed…I don’t know who’s shooting, but they don’t stop. We’ve been under fire for hours. I haven’t heard of the army or the police.”

“When we left the house, I saw chaos, bodies scattered everywhere. The wall of the house was riddled with bullet holes,” a resident stated. “Outside the settlement there were smashed and burnt cars, and the Hamas vehicles were with the bodies of terrorists inside. I didn’t manage to identify them, but I’m sure there were bodies of friends. The kibbutz that used to be heaven turned into hell.”

The Yedioth Ahronoth report included photos from Reuters of a home with large holes in the roof, indicating it had been bombed from above.

It was also difficult for journalists visiting Kfar Azza days later to understand what caused the destruction they witnessed. Accompanied by army spokespersons as they walked amid the rubble, journalists therefore interpreted what they saw through the lens the army wanted.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported further that on 10 October, the Israeli army finally allowed the foreign press to “enter and photograph the dimensions of the massacre and destruction in Kibbutz Kfar Azza, where men, women and children were murdered and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists.”

Can I Eat This?

But claims that Hamas carried out a horrific massacre in Kfar Azza are difficult to square with the testimony of an Israeli mother, Rotum, who lived in the kibbutz with her two young boys.

When the attack began, she took her boys into the safe room. When six Hamas fighters entered her home, she could hear them speaking Arabic. Rotum tried to use her body to secure the door and prevent them entering but failed.

Rotum described how, “To open the door, the fighters fired a single bullet. We were lucky that the door opened and the bullet flew by without hitting us. After they entered, I immediately told them I have two boys with me. They looked at each other and one of them told me in English, ‘Don’t worry. We are Muslims. You will not be harmed.’”

Rotum was astonished. “This surprised me on the one hand but comforted me on the other. I sat with the boys and one of them brought a chair from the kitchen. He was armed. He stayed with us while the rest of them searched the house. Another one saw a banana in the kitchen and came to me and said, ‘Can I eat this?’”

While telling the story, Rotum laughs and says she told the fighter, “Yes, you can.” She says her older boy was scared by the guns while her younger son was more relaxed and continued playing video games. Once, as the fighters were speaking Arabic among themselves, one of her sons asked her if “they were discussing ways to apologize to us.” Rotum laughed again as she described telling her son, “It seems not.”

Rotum finished by saying the fighters “stayed with us for two hours and then suddenly closed the door and left.” This astonished the interviewer, and Rotum added, “Yes, and they just left.”

This does not mean that Hamas fighters did not kill any kibbutz residents during the attack, including accidentally or deliberately. But it raises the question of whether Hamas fighters were given orders to massacre as many civilians as possible, as Israeli officials claim. It also raises the question of whether Israeli Apache helicopters, Zik drones, and Merkava tanks caused most of the destruction and killed many of the Israeli civilians who died during the battle.

Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer also visited Kfar Azza in the aftermath of 7 October and similarly described in a video report how, “As you can see behind me, a lot of the houses here have been destroyed totally. A lot of them have been blown up. Some of them are burnt,” again suggesting the kibbutz was attacked by Israeli airpower.

In many cases, details are murky regarding the circumstances of deaths.

Parents Aviv and Livnat Kutz were found dead in their home with their daughter Rotem, 20, and their two boys, Yiftach, 14, and Yonatan, 16. But few details have come out about how they were killed.

“At some point, through friends, we learned their bodies were found in their home. They were embracing, Aviv holding them all close,” Livnat’s sister told Yedioth Ahronoth.

Were they massacred in their home by Hamas fighters, or by Israeli airstrikes? Without seeing the home or the bodies, it is difficult to know.

Blackened

Few details are available regarding the deaths of a young engaged couple, Niv Raviv and Nirel Zini, who were also killed in Kfar Azza. Their home was burned during the attack, but their bodies were found only a week later.

Both had had military careers in the reserves. In 2015, Zini had been injured during an operation in the West Bank, near Hebron, while his partner Niv had been a special operations officer in the Gaza Division.

A soldier who knew Niv showed a journalist from Sky News where she was allegedly killed. The soldier “gestured towards a cluster of devastated homes. Their once-white walls are blackened by fire – those that are still standing, anyway.”

“Their petite, simple bungalow is now a charred husk. The entire front has been blown out – most likely in the fierce gun battle that erupted after the bloodshed as Israeli forces fought back,” Sky News added.

That the front of the house was blown out suggests it was attacked by a tank or helicopter. If their bodies were buried in the rubble, this would explain why they were not discovered sooner. It is difficult to know if they were killed when the home was destroyed, or if the home was destroyed later, as the Sky News journalist speculated.

Secunder Kermani, a reporter for the UK’s Channel 4 News, also visited Kfar Azza when the press was allowed in on 10 October. He stated that, “some of the reports suggest some of the victims may have been decapitated, beheaded. But really, such a horrific level of violence was used, the bodies of many of the victims are in such bad condition that it’s hard to know if it’s true or not. What is clear is that men, women, and children were ruthlessly and mercilessly killed.” But it is not clear by whom or how.

On 14 October, Lt. Col. Golan Vach of a military search and rescue team gave further insight into the cause of some of the destruction. While speaking to members of the foreign press in Kafr Azza, Vach is gave a briefing in front of a burnt and destroyed house.

He claimed that Hamas had gathered 15 people inside, including eight babies, “and they killed them, and they burned them.” He also claimed he personally removed the body of a mother and her baby who had been beheaded inside the house.

But when pressed by a journalist how Hamas had caused such destruction, Col. Vach reluctantly acknowledged, “Our tanks attacked, because they [Hamas] were blocked in these houses, and we need to conquer back the whole settlement. And it couldn’t be happen [sic] without the tanks.”

But according to later death tolls documented by Haaretz, no babies were killed in Kfar Azza. 14-year-old Yiftach Kutz was the youngest killed that day.

Further, Hamas fighters needed hostages as human shields. It is therefore unclear why Hamas fighters would bother to gather the hostages in a house and then burn them alive inside a home they themselves were trapped inside of while surrounded by the army.

The journalist then asked about the beheaded baby, asking for proof as the issue had already become controversial. The journalist asked whether Col. Vach had photos of the baby’s body he evacuated. Col. Vach then became agitated and insisted the journalist take his word for what happened at the home that day.

This suggests Col. Vach knew the army had killed everyone inside the house with tank fire, both Israeli hostages and Hamas fighters, but was trying to cover this up by telling journalists Hamas had carried out a massacre in the home. Had the journalist not asked how such destruction had occurred, Col. Vach would not have mentioned the home was destroyed by the Israeli army itself.

The Kibbutz Became a Battlefield

One clear case where Hamas fighters killed civilians in Kfar Azza concerns the Goldstein-Almog family.

When Hamas fighters entered their home, the father, Nadav, tried to defend the family with a wooden plank and was “shot in the chest at point-blank range,” said his wife Chen. Yam, their 20-year-old daughter and an off-duty soldier, was “shot in the face,” Chen said.

Chen and her other three children, daughter Agam, 17, and sons Gal, 11 and Tal, 9, were taken captive back to Gaza.

Despite their injuries, Nadav and Yam were still alive when Hamas took Chen and the other children away. Chen learned they were dead weeks later while captive in Gaza listening to the news on the radio.

Chen and her three children were released on November 26 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel brokered by Qatar.

Two other residents of Kfar Azza, Adar and Itay Berdychivsky, were killed during a gunbattle with Hamas fighters. Both Adar and Atay served in the Israeli army as officers and kept weapons at home.

When the fighters approached their house, they hid their 10-month-old twins in their safe room and waited. Adar and Atay reportedly killed seven Hamas fighters before being killed themselves. Their children remained in the safe rooms until their uncle and grandfather found them 13 hours later.

Where Was Our Military?

According to one resident of Kfar Azza who hid in his safe room for hours, the Israeli military finally came to his home at 7 p.m. He said everyone in the kibbutz was asking: “Where was our military?”

Kermani of Channel 4 finished his report by interviewing Major Doron Spielman of the Israeli army. Kermani asks, “What happened here is obviously so horrific, but speaking to the relatives, there is also a lot of anger at how long it took Israeli forces to respond, why more wasn’t done to prevent the militants from getting here in the first place?”

Major Spielman responded, “I feel angry. Everybody in the army feels angry from top down. We know we’re going to do the deepest, deepest analysis of how this happened so this can never happen again.”

Kermani asks further, “What went wrong?” Major Spielman responds, “You know, it’s going to take us weeks and months to really figure that out.”

But Spielman and others in the military knew exactly what happened. As mentioned above, Rear Admiral Hagari stated on 7 October that the army would respond first with airstrikes, and only later with ground troops, including as we now know, tanks.

What happened at Kibbutz Nir Oz?

Another kibbutz devastated during the 7 October Hamas attack was Nir Oz. According to Haaretz, of the 400 or so residents, at least 38 were killed and 75 others taken captive to Gaza. The hostages included two elderly women, Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, who were later the first Israelis released by Hamas in a prisoner exchange.

One resident, Bar Goren told Yedioth Ahronoth that the first reports of Hamas fighters infiltrating the settlement came from the kibbutz’s emergency committee around 7:00 a.m. He said he received countless additional messages reporting the presence of more Hamas fighters, including some allegedly dressed as Israeli soldiers.

The Hamas fighters allegedly dressed as soldiers may have been commandos from the Yamam Border Police units, which as noted above were dispatched quickly by helicopter and were going door to door looking for Hamas fighters.

“We kept hearing gunshots, at the same time as messages from members of the kibbutz calling for help. We already understood that the members of the standby squad would not be able to handle the amount of terrorists that are being reported,” Bar explained.

Bar and his brother, who lived next door, sheltered in their safe rooms for hours until the army finally rescued them around 5:30 pm.

But their mother, Maya, who was at the kibbutz kindergarten that morning, was taken hostage to Gaza after Hamas fighters entered and found her hiding under a bed. Bar’s last contact with her was by WhatsApp at 9:45 am.

Bar’s brother, Dekel, said their father Avner was killed by Hamas. Dekel said his father “fought them at the door of the safe room, they tried to break it down. At 10:42 he was last seen on WhatsApp.”

On 1 December, the Israeli army notified the family that Maya had been killed. The army said her body was still in Gaza but gave no details as to why or how she died.

As mentioned above, some of the hostages released in November stated that the locations where they were being held were being hit by Israeli shelling, even though the Israeli government had intelligence indicating where they were being held. This suggests Maya and those with her may have been killed by Israeli forces.

Another woman, Sharon Aloni Cunio, her husband David, and their 3-year-old twin daughters, Yuli and Emma, were also taken hostage by Hamas on 7 October from Nir Oz.

Sharon sent text messages over the course of several hours describing what happened. The family sheltered in the safe room, but Hamas fighters eventually entered their house. “She sent a voice message that the terrorists had set the house on fire, and smoke was getting under the door of the sealed room,” the Times of Israel reported. Sharon’s last message was at 11:20 a.m.

Later that day, a TikTok video circulated that appeared to show David, Sharon and one of the twins on the back of a pickup truck being taken back to Gaza.

Sharon and her 3-year-old twin daughters were released on 27 November as part of a temporary ceasefire and captive exchange. The father, David, is still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

In another case, a married couple, Tamar and Yonatan Siman Tov sheltered in their safe room with their children, 6-year-old twin daughters Shachar and Arbel, and 4-year-old son Omer.

Hamas fighters threw grenades into the home, lighting it on fire. Yonatan apparently opened the safe room door to let air in. According to Yonaton’s brother-in-law, he and Tamar were found shot. The children were also found dead, but with no signs of physical violence. They apparently suffocated to death.

Haaretz reports as well that Hamas fighters encountered stiff resistance from the nine members of the kibbutz security squad, “But as far as is known the IDF did not wage a battle on the grounds of the kibbutz.” Survivors no longer heard voices of Hamas or other Palestinians by 2 pm, and the army finally entered the kibbutz at 3 pm.

Haaretz added that when a ranking officer was asked whether the army engaged Hamas in battle in Nir Oz, he was unable to answer the question. “What happened in Nir Oz is a black hole from our point of view,” he claimed.

In Her Daughter’s Arms

However, this is not true. The army did engage in battle in Nir Oz, perhaps not in the form of ground troops, but with Apache helicopters, as elsewhere.

This is clear the testimony Neomit Dekel-Chen, 63, a resident of the kibbutz who was also taken hostage but managed to escape before reaching Gaza.

Neomit explained to Yedioth Aharanoth how she was abducted, not by Hamas but by Palestinian civilians who flooded out of Gaza to loot the kibbutzim in the hours after the initial Hamas attack left the border fence wide open.

Neomit initially hid in the security room in her home. However, the looters lit her home and the homes of others on fire, and the smoke forced her to flee.

“I ran out and saw a neighbor who had shot two terrorists,” she said.

She was quickly captured along with another of her neighbors. Palestinians had killed her neighbor’s son and taken her husband captive.

Neomit stated, “I saw the terrorists walking with their loot, bulging suitcases, televisions, and electric wagons used by the elderly.”

After being forced to walk 150 meters barefoot toward Gaza, a tuktuk pulled up next to Neomit pulling a cart full of hostages, including several small girls. She got into a cart with the others to complete the journey when Israeli helicopters opened fire on them.

Neomit explained further that, “They continued to drive with us in the back, toward Gaza, when an IDF helicopter appeared above us. At some point the helicopter shot at the terrorists, the driver, and the others. There was screaming in the tuktuk. All the terrorists were dead and we were alive, except for one of the women with us. She had died in the arms of her daughter, who had come to the kibbutz to visit and now would not leave her mother.”

Neomit then picked up a young girl and began to run, but the helicopter opened fire on them again.

“We were 50 meters into the fields when I was hit with shrapnel in my head, knee and back. I was bleeding,” she said. She managed to escape after playing dead in the field until the Israeli army later secured the area.

Journalist Dan Cohen reported that the daughter whose elderly mother died in her arms was identified as Doron Katz-Asher. She told Israel’s Channel 12 that after Palestinians stormed Nir Oz, they loaded her, her daughters Raz, 2, Aviv, 4, and her mother Efrat Katz onto a tractor and headed for Gaza.

But the Israeli army opened fire on the tractor, injuring Katz-Asher’s two daughters and killing her mother Efrat.

Efrat Katz’ partner Gadi Mozes, was taken into Gaza as well.

They Were Found Near the Border Fence

Two of those also likely killed by the Apache helicopters in Nir Oz were 80-year-old Carmela Dan and her 12-year-old autistic granddaughter Noya.

Noya had gone to her grandmother’s home in the kibbutz for a sleepover, but both vanished in the morning on 7 October. The family assumed both were taken hostage.

Foreign Policy notes that Israel announced their bodies “were found near the border fence.”

On 19 October, Carmela’s niece told NBC News that “There was an operation by the Israeli army some days ago at this point to retrieve bodies, and we believe that it took them time to run what we know to be three DNA tests and to identify that it was both of them.”

Because they were killed by the border fence, this suggests that, like Efrat Katz, they were killed by Israeli Apache helicopter pilots as they were being taken to Gaza, per the Hannibal Directive.

Had Hamas fighters or Palestinian looters wished to murder Carmela and Noya, they could have shot them in their home. Instead, they wished to take them to Gaza, likely to sell them to Hamas, after which they could be exchanged for Palestinians held captive in Israeli prisons.

For example, Niri Margalit an Israeli women from Nir Oz, was taken hostage by Palestinians who took her to the Gaza border in a stolen golf cart. She was then put into a car and taken to Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza. She was then taken inside a warehouse, where she was passed to a separate group of men after what she could tell was a negotiation. The new captors then took her into a tunnel where she was held for two months before being released by Hamas in a prisoner exchange.

The destruction that resulted in Nir Oz was summarized by Haaretz: “A tour of the battered kibbutz, 12 days after the disaster, shows that many homes were burned to the ground, others collapsed. The paint factory Nirlat, at the entrance to the kibbutz, was largely burned down. Everywhere there are dozens of burned cars, especially in the neighborhood next to the fence.”

The Israeli paper of course attributed all the damage to Hamas, but because the Apache helicopters were targeting Palestinians and Israeli captives, it is also unclear how many of the 38 Israelis who died in Nir Oz were killed by Hamas, and how many by Israeli forces.

But with Israeli commanders watching what happened by drone feed from their bases in southern Israel, what happened at Nir Oz was not a “black hole,” as the Israeli army claimed.

What Happened at Kibbutz Nahal Oz?

In Nahal Oz, in addition to attacking the military base where Israel’s female surveillance soldiers were stationed, Hamas entered the adjoining kibbutz and sought to take hostages.

One incident gained significant attention because the Hamas fighters used Facebook to live stream holding the Eliakim family hostage in the living room of their home.

The Facebook video shows Hamas fighters in the home with Noam Eliakim, who they shot and injured in the leg, along with his daughters, Ela, 8, and Dafna, 15, as well as his partner Dikla Arava, and her son, Tomer Arava, 17.

The fighters then took Tomer to other homes in the kibbutz to tell the residents in Hebrew to come out of their safe rooms.

The two daughters, Ela and Dafna, were taken hostage back to Gaza, and later released as part of the prisoner exchange with Hamas in November.

The Daily Mail reported that Noam, Dikla and Tomer were later found dead, their bodies riddled bullets in an empty lot. The New York Post reported the bodies were found near the Gaza border. According to a relative, the last photo of Noam appears to show him being led down a dusty road by the fighters.

Noam, Dikla, and Tomer were reported as murdered by Hamas in the Israeli and western press, but it is unclear if this is the case. If they were also being brought back to Gaza, it is likely they were killed by Israeli helicopter machine gun fire as they neared the border. Had the fighters wanted to kill them, they could have shot them in their home. An examination of the ammunition that killed them could determine which possibility is correct.

Tell Your Air Force Not to Bomb This Place

When the Hamas fighters took Tomer to other houses in the kibbutz, they continued to live stream on Facebook and entered the home of Tsachi Idan and his wife Gali.

Gali described to the BBC how “something exploded outside [her] house, shattering the glass windows. Then came the sound of footsteps and voices inside their home. A man shouted in accented English, ‘we don’t shoot.’”

Tsachi, Gali, and their three children barricaded themselves in their safe room. Tsachi held tightly to the handle of the door to prevent the fighters from entering. After calling for the family to come out, the Facebook video shows a fighter shoot two bullets at the door, which strike and kill 18-year-old Maayan, on the other side.

The fighters then open the safe room door and bring the family out into the living room. They ask the mother, Gali, to open her phone and again begin a live stream on Facebook.

In the Israeli press, the fighters were described as using the Facebook live stream to publicize their atrocities. However, the fighters apparently wanted to communicate that they were in the house with hostages so they would not be killed by Israeli airstrikes.

In the live stream, a fighter says to Gali in broken English, “Don’t shoot on the houses. Tell your air force not bomb here the place [sic].”

The fighters then brought other hostages to the Idan home who they had taken captive elsewhere, including Omri and Lishai Miran-Levi and their two baby daughters, Roni, 2, and Alma, 6 months.

Lishai described how “The terrorists began shouting for us to open the door and brought with them a 16-year-old boy from the kibbutz, Tomer Arbel-Eliaz. He asked us to open the door and said that if we didn’t, they would harm him. We opened the door,” Lishai said.

After reaching the Idan home, the two families sat on shattered glass on the floor of the kitchen and around 1:00 p.m., the fighters brought two more women, both American citizens. Around 1:30 pm, the fighters handcuffed the two fathers, Omri and Tsachi, and took them to Gaza in the Idan family’s car.

Before they left, Tsachi’s daughter asked the Hamas fighters not to take him and kill him. “They turned around and said, ‘He’ll be back, he’ll be back,’” Tsachi’s wife Gali said. “They promised Yael that he would return.”

The fighters left the women and children in the home. They waited until the Israeli military arrived at 5:30 pm and were evacuated.

The bizarre events of the hostage taking in Nahal Oz give credibility to statements made by Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk. When challenged by the BBC about Hamas killing civilians during the attack of 7 October, Mousa claimed that Mohamed al-Deif, the leader of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing, had ordered his men to spare civilians.

“El-Deif clearly told his fighters ‘don’t kill a woman, don’t kill a child and don’t kill an old man,'” Mousa said.

Reservist soldiers were, he said, “targeted.” Deif maintained that only “conscripts […] or soldiers” were killed. But women, children and civilians were “exempt,” he said.

This does not mean Hamas fighters did not kill any innocent civilians, but it suggests these were the instructions actually given.

Because most Israeli men serve in the army as conscripts at age 18 and can be called as reservists until age 40 thereafter, this would suggest it was permissible for Hamas fighters to kill adult males, per the instructions from Deif. But these males were more valuable as hostages, which explains why the Hamas fighters took Tsachi and Omri captive to Gaza, while leaving the women and children.

This contrasts with Israeli claims that Hamas sought to massacre as many Israelis as possible, including women and children, during the attack.

But with so many Israelis killed by Israeli helicopter and tank fire, whether near the border or in their homes, including many burned beyond recognition, the perception of an indiscriminate Hamas massacre was easy to promote.

What Happened at Kibbutz Holit?

Hamas fighters also attacked Holit, a small kibbutz in Israel’s far south, near both the Gaza and Egypt borders.

The fighters entered the home of an Israeli woman, Avital Alajem, who was hiding in a closet with her neighbor and friend Hayim Katsman. The fighters shot at the door, killing Katsman on the other side.

His body “absorbed all the bullets,” Avital told CNN. “I was saved because he was next to the door.”

They took her and told her to cover herself. In the living room, the fighters brought other hostages, including a 4-year-old-boy, Negev, and 4-month-old baby boy, Eshel. Avital recognized the children, but their mother was nowhere to be seen.

Hamas later released a video showing several of its fighters with the two children at a home in Holit. A fighter bandages the 4-year-old’s foot. The boy is then shown sitting on the knee of a fighter in an outside patio, while the 4-month-old is being rocked in a cradle by another fighter. The video also shows a fighter giving the smiling 4-year-old something to drink inside a home and teaching him to say, “In the name of God” in Arabic, which is common among Muslims to recite before a meal.

The video then shows a fighter holding both of the boys and saying, “We have mercy in our hearts, here’s your children who we do not kill like you do to ours!”

Are There Civilians There?

In response to the Hamas attack, three Israeli tanks from the Paran Brigade were dispatched to the kibbutz, including one with an all-female crew.

As The Grayzone reported, Israel’s Channel 12 published a glowing profile of the all-female tank company, highlighting its role in repelling the Hamas attack. In the report, a 20-year-old captain says she was ordered by a “panicked” soldier to open fire on homes in Holit, whether they contained civilians or not.

“The soldier points and tells me, ‘shoot there — the terrorists are there,’” the captain recounts. When she asks, “are there civilians there?” the soldier replies, “I don’t know,” and ordered her to “just shoot” a tank round into the buildings anyway.

She explained that “I decided not to shoot” as “this is an Israeli community.” Instead, she said, “I fired with my machine gun at a house.”

But the soldiers did fire tank shells in the kibbutz, not just bullets from the tanks’ heavy machine guns. An Israeli commander from the Paran Brigade told Channel 12 that, “We are in a battle inside Holit, there is also fire from the fields. And in the community, we fired projectiles and machine guns. Also in the community. This is a very complex situation. The terrorists did not fight the tanks. They either ran or died. They killed dozens of terrorists.”

Simcha Greinerman, a volunteer from of the Zaka who was one of the first people to enter the kibbutz after the attack, described the aftermath. “It is something you could not imagine,” he said.

When he tried to pick up the body of someone burned to death in a car: “Everything was burned to ashes. We touched the body, and everything crumbled.”

Now You Go!

Avital and the two boys were then used as human shields as the Hamas fighters continued moving through Holit and then back to Gaza. “They moved us between houses, with destruction and blood everywhere … We were on the way to Gaza, me and the kids and the terrorists … I could see Gaza houses, then they said, ‘That’s it! Now you go!’ And they dropped the kid and just went into Gaza.”

Avital then walked back to Holit with the boys where they found Israeli soldiers and were escorted to safety.

Israeli media claimed Avital and the boys escaped, but Al-Jazeera published video showing the fighters releasing them once they reached the border. This suggests the fighters wanted to use them as human shields to avoid being attacked by the Israeli army until they could safely reach Gaza again.

Though Hamas and other Palestinian fighters took hostages for financial reward and for a potential prisoner exchange with Israel, simply returning Gaza safely was another motivation. However, due to the Hannibal Directive, many Hamas fighters and their Israeli captives were nonetheless killed in the open fields near the Gaza border by helicopter fire.

A Booby Trapped Body?

But what happened to the two boys’ mother, Adi Vital-Kaploun?

She was initially assumed missing, as her body could not be found. The Israeli army later claimed she had been murdered by the Hamas fighters, who then booby trapped her body and hid it under her son’s bed. It took several days to locate her body, they claimed, because the house was also booby-trapped, and the time was needed to clear the home of explosives.

“They put bombs all over her body,” a family friend told Canada’s The Globe and Mail.

When Adi’s body was found, her family chose not to comment on circumstances of her death.

The claim that Hamas fighters deliberately murdered Adi and then booby trapped her body is odd. The fighters did not kill Avital after killing her friend in the closet with her and treated Avi’s boys humanely. It is unclear why they would take the time to booby trap Adi’s body and house when they were fleeing Israeli soldiers opening fire on homes with tanks.

It is possible the Hamas fighters shot through a safe room door and struck Adi, killing her. Another possibility is that she was struck by a Israeli fire, whether a tank shell or heavy machine gun fire.

The Israeli army may have told her family her body was booby trapped to cover up the reason for her death and explain any damage to her body that would not have resulted from simply being shot by Hamas fighters.

As Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone detailed, a representative of Zaka fabricated a similar story claiming the body of a woman in Kfar Azza had been booby trapped.

Speaking to the Guardian, Simcha Greeneman made up a story alleging he saw a “woman, naked from the waist down, had been bent over a bed and then shot in the back of the head. When the team tried to move her, a live grenade rolled out of her clenched hand.”

What Happened at Kibbutz Re’im?

Imri Bunim, a member of the security squad at Re’im, described events at the kibbutz on the morning of 7 October. He told i24 News that he woke up to Hamas missile fire from Gaza at 6:30 am. Within twenty minutes, he began to hear gunfire. As he gathered his equipment, he received a message from the head of the security squad that Hamas fighters on motorcycles had killed people on Route 232, the highway passing by Re’im. He quickly joined the other five members of the squad to take defensive positions and repel Hamas fighters entering the kibbutz.

The Hamas fighters first took over the community center, where Imri and the security squad engaged them in a two-hour gun battle.

At 9:17, a kibbutz member and a four-man police squad joined the security team. They opened fire on Hamas fighters from a Caracal assault vehicle.

Imri says he saw a fire on the other side of the kibbutz. He helped evacuate a family from the window of the safe room of their burning home. The family had a daughter in a wheelchair, which they managed to get through the window. Imri described what happened while showing i24 News the home. The video shows the home is totally destroyed except the safe room and appears to have been hit by heavy weapons such as a tank or airstrike.

Imran says the Israeli army joined the fight at 12:40 pm and he guided them through the neighborhoods to the battle.

During the attack, Hamas fighters gathered some residents to take them captive back to Gaza. Assaf Febvre, a young soldier living in the kibbutz, was among them. According to his friend, Israeli actor Tom Sellem, a kibbutz resident saw Assaf struggle and try to escape and was shot and killed by the Hamas fighters.

At some point during the attack, Hamas fighters broke into the home of Dvir Karp, 46, where he and his girlfriend and his two children were barricaded in the safe room. Karp’s ex-wife told the Times of Israel he “tried to attack the terrorists with an axe” to protect his children, “but the terrorists killed him and also his girlfriend, Stav, who also tried to protect them.”

Ten-year-old Dariya was hiding in the bed and covered herself with the blanket. One of the Hamas fighters lifted up the covers but then put them back on top of her. The fighters left Dariya and her eight-year-old autistic brother in the safe room.

The Hamas fighter wrote on the wall with lipstick, “The people of Al-Kassam don’t murder small children,” before leaving the home.

Dariya then used her father’s phone to message her mother to call for help. She and her 8-year-old brother were rescued nine hours later.

Unlike Anything in the Region

The Israeli army also used heavy weapons, whether from tanks or helicopters, during the battle at Re’im.

This is evident from a video published by South First Responders showing a completely destroyed home in the kibbutz.

In the video, the corpses of two alleged Hamas fighters are laying on the rubble.

The arm of an unknown person, either another Hamas fighter or the resident of the home, can be seen sticking out of the rubble.

The immense destruction suggests the home was hit by helicopter or tank fire, as occurred in other kibbutzim on 7 October.

However, South First Responders claimed that Hamas fighters had destroyed the home by blowing it up with explosives, killing themselves as the home collapsed on top of them.

The group claimed a soldier explained the massive destruction by saying “these terrorists had explosives specifically designed for closed spaces” and the style of explosives was “unlike anything known to this region.”

But in the video, the dead fighters lying in the rubble have been stripped down to their underwear and their bodies show no physical signs of injury. This indicates they were not killed in any explosion at the site but could have been executed and their bodies placed at the site later on.

Video released by the Israeli army similarly showed four Palestinians who surrendered on a dirt road near Gaza. They had been stripped of their shirts and were lying face down in the road after Israeli soldiers executed them.

The improbable claim that Hamas had used explosives “unlike anything in this region” In Re’im to blow up a home on top of themselves was one of many bizarre ways Israeli forces sought to obscure their own destruction and killing using helicopters, tanks, and drones on 7 October.

What Happened at Ofakim?

Hamas fighters managed to reach the town of Ofakim, some 30 km into Israeli territory, during the 7 October attack.

The New York Times detailed how the fighters assaulting Ofakim were confronted by local police forces. During the gun battles, one policeman successfully killed a Hamas fighter by shooting him in the head.

In another case, police officers were lobbing grenades at three Hamas fighters who had taken cover, killing two of them. When the lone survivor gave himself up, “they shot him dead,” one of the officers explained.

“These guys had come there for a suicide mission, not to turn themselves in.”

Five Hamas fighters in Ofakim then broke into the home of an elderly couple, Rachel and David Edri, taking them hostage.

After being rescued, Rachel told local television about her ordeal. She said the “mood was all light-hearted and funny … I’m just having fun with them.”

Rachel and the Hamas fighters began singing songs to each other. “[The terrorist] is singing songs by Lior Narkis,” a famous Israeli singer. “And I’m singing songs to them,” Rachel said.

The surprised interviewer asked, “The terrorist sang a Lior Narkis song to you?” Rachel says with a smile, “Yes. [I sang with them] to stall for time. Really just to stall.”

The New York Times reported further that “Ms. Edri charmed her captors, plying them with food and drinks. She signaled discreetly through the window that they were being held by five terrorists.”

“Before dawn, Yamam, the hostage rescue team, decided to storm the house and end the standoff.”

Their son, Evyatar, “thought there was a low chance his parents would survive, but urged the commandos to do what was necessary.”

Despite the danger, the Yamam commandos went ahead with the raid, killing the Hamas fighters and freeing the elderly couple. But it is odd that the Yamam unit and the couple’s son were willing to go ahead with a rescue in which they expected Rachel and David would likely be killed.

Given the interactions between them, it is clear the Hamas fighters were not interested in murdering Rachel and David. Because Ofakim is much further from the Gaza border than other kibbutzim such as Be’eri or Kfar Azza, it is unlikely the fighters intended to take any captives back to Gaza.

It appears instead they broke into Rachel and David’s home and took them hostage as human shields to escape the gun battle.

What Happened at the Tribe of Nova Music Festival?

Israel claims that on the morning of 7 October, Hamas fighters carried out a pre-meditated massacre of 364 Israeli partygoers at an all-night rave, the Tribe of Nova music festival, which was taking place near the Gaza border.

Hamas fighters were able to freely rape, torture, mutilate, and burn to death innocent partygoers before the Israeli army was finally able to respond many hours later, Israel claimed.

However, a closer look at events at the Nova festival shows a very different reality.

Hamas was not aware of the concert in advance and had instead sent fighters from its military wing, the Qassam Brigades, to attack the nearby Re’im military base, home of the Gaza division.

As discussed above, attacking the Re’im base, which is a few kilometers down the road from the Nova site on Route 232, was a major goal of Hamas’ broader military operation.

Though it took soldiers from the Israeli army several hours to respond to the rave, Israeli Border Patrol forces were quickly deployed. This included elite Yamam commando units who were transported to the site by helicopter.

A major battle between Hamas and the Border Police ensued, forcing hundreds of trapped partygoers to try to escape the crossfire.

Hamas certainly killed some of the partygoers, including some hiding with police in nearby bomb shelters, while taking others captive back to Gaza.

But the Israeli army deployed Apache attack helicopters to the Nova site, where pilots opened fire with heavy weapons. Apache helicopters can be equipped with hellfire missiles, Hydra rockets, and 30 mm machine gun cannons, including with incendiary munitions which light the target on fire when struck. The helicopter fire killed many Hamas fighters but also many Israeli partygoers, whether by accident or due to the Hannibal Directive. Many were burned alive.

The Border Police also opened fire on the partygoers, whether by accident or due to the Hannibal Directive is unknown. Partygoers reported being shot at by men wearing Israeli army and police uniforms just at the moment they thought they would be saved.

As a result, it is unclear how many partygoers were killed by Hamas, and how many by Israeli forces. The overwhelming advantage in firepower enjoyed by Israel, coupled with the incentive of the Hannibal Directive, suggests Israeli forces killed most of the partygoers who died at Nova.

However, an investigation would be needed to determine this definitively. Unfortunately, Israeli officials have made this difficult. They vowed not to investigate the events of 7 October until after the war on Gaza is finished, chose not to document injuries to the bodies of the victims, and destroyed evidence at the Nova site in the days after the battle ended.

The controversial events of the Nova festival are discussed in detail below.

Why Weren’t They Warned?

On the night of 6 October, thousands of Israeli partygoers danced to music and got high on psychedelic drugs at the Tribe of Nova music festival just 3 miles from the Gaza border.

As they danced, the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic spy service, observed possible indications a Hamas attack was imminent.

The Times of London reported an emergency phone meeting was held at midnight between senior figures from Shin Bet, the army, and military intelligence, followed by an in-person meeting at 3 am attended by Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, as mentioned above.

Bar also sent commandos from Team Tequila, an elite counter-terror unit, to the Gaza border area to investigate further.

Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, the army chief of staff, was informed of the threat, as was Colonel Haim Cohen, the head of the Gaza division’s northern brigade, who had personally approved the permit for the Nova festival to take place.

Shin Bet and army officials considered the threat serious enough to notify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office early that morning. His office allegedly received the call at 6:29 am, just one minute before Hamas’ initial rocket barrage to initiate the Al-Aqsa Flood operation, as mentioned above as well.

Strangely, no military or intelligence officials notified the Nova festival organizers.

Lawyers representing survivors of the festival in a lawsuit against the government later told the Jerusalem Post that all the army “had to do was make a phone call to the responsible parties on their behalf in order for them to disperse the party in view of the notifications received” that night.

The permit for the festival had been approved even though senior officers in the Gaza Division expressed concerns about allowing a large gathering so close to the Gaza border, the Jerusalem Post reported further.

The permit for the festival was even extended by one day to Saturday, despite the concerns of a senior operations officer of the Gaza Division who emphasized that the Simchat Torah holiday, during which many soldiers go on leave, would make it even more difficult to secure the party.

Oddly, Colonel Haim Cohen approved the permit anyway.

Also odd is that elements in the army apparently knew of a possible Hamas attack on the festival a week in advance.

Elkana Federman, the head of security at the Nova festival, received a warning a week before the Hamas attack that there could be a major invasion but was ignored when he informed authorities in the army.

Federman told Israel’s Channel 14 on 6 February 2024 that, “I had a guard at the festival who had served in the Re’im Division [near Gaza border], and a week before the festival he sent me a voice message … basically warning me, saying, ‘Elkana, something is going to happen over Sukkot. I just wanted to let you know, there are a lot of warnings. As the whole country knows, the situation in the Gaza envelope isn’t the greatest, so I said I’d warn you so you could be ready. I don’t know what will happen, maybe something will happen, and maybe not.’ He spoke with me like that, in codes.”

Federman said he passed the information on, but his warning was ignored.

“I passed the voice message on, and they told me everything was all right, that the army would be able to handle whatever needed to be handled and that there were always alerts and that everything was fine. I did my part,” he said. “I’m just a security officer, not a high army guy who can change something in my purview.”

“If he knew what he knew, a driver on the Gaza border,” Federman pointed out, “what did those above him know? Because he’s a small screw in the system.”

Worst Massacre in Israel’s History?

A report from the Associated Press (AP) from 10 October quickly established the narrative Hamas committed a massacre at the Nova festival.

The news agency wrote that “Dozens of Hamas militants who had blown through Israel’s heavily fortified separation fence and crossed into the country from Gaza opened fire on about 3,500 young Israelis who had come together for a joyous night of electronic music to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Some attendees were drunk or high on drugs, magnifying their confusion and terror.”

The report relied heavily on testimony from a young Israeli woman who attended the festival named Maya Alper, who is also an Israeli soldier, to piece together events.

The AP claimed that “Festival-goers who managed to make it to the road and parking lot where their vehicles were parked found themselves trapped in a traffic jam, with militants stalking the cars and spraying those inside with gunfire.”

“Nowhere was safe,” Alper said.

Alper said she and her friends then abandoned their car and began running through a field to hide in forested areas nearby. Alper says that from her hiding spot she saw a Hamas fighter kill her friend.

Crucially, according to this narrative, Israeli forces were nowhere to be found, allowing Hamas to freely hunt down and massacre the partygoers.

“For over six hours, Alper and thousands of other concert attendees hid without help from the Israeli army as Hamas militants sprayed automatic gunfire and threw grenades,” the AP writes.

While hiding in the bushes, Alper filmed a selfie video and uploaded it to Facebook. In the video, which went viral, she tries to stay calm by practicing meditative breathing.

Alper knew she was finally safe, she said, when she heard the sound of tank fire, which she recognized due to her role in the Israeli army as a tank instructor.

In the days after the festival, Israel released video footage from cell phones and car dash cams which showed Hamas fighters attacking partygoers at the rave. One video showed an armed Palestinian man shooting a male partygoer at point blank range who had apparently played dead while hiding under a car. Another video showed Hamas fighters opening fire, throwing grenades, and even shooting an RPG at a bomb shelter full of partygoers who had fled the Nova site seeking safety.

This, coupled with reports that the Zaka rescue organization had collected 260 bodies from the scene, led the AP to write that at Nova, Hamas “committed the worst civilian massacre in Israeli history.”

Route 232

However, Maya Alper’s account to the AP and many others like it omit crucial details which are needed to understand what happened at the Nova festival.

Haaretz later reported that a police analysis of the events showed that Hamas did not suddenly attack thousands of partygoers as they were listening to music and dancing. Most were able evacuate the site before any Hamas fighters arrived because the organizers decided to stop the concert after seeing the first barrage of missile fire from Gaza at 6:30 am, which was half an hour before the first gun shots were heard at Nova.

According to a senior police official quoted by Haaretz, “We estimate that about 4,400 people were present at the event, the vast majority of whom managed to escape following a decision to disperse the event that was made four minutes after the rocket barrage.”

Most of the concert goers were able to get in their cars and drive from the parking lot to the exit of festival site and then escape via the only road in the area, Route 232, which connects to the nearby Kibbutz Re’im, just a few minutes to the south, and to Kibbutz Be’eri, a few minutes to the north.

The police report further concluded that Hamas had not known about the Nova festival or planned to attack it in advance. Instead, the Hamas fighters’ original goal was to attack the nearby Re’im military base and associated kibbutz, where the Gaza Division of the Israeli army is based.

Proof of this, according to the police report, is that the Hamas fighters reached the Nova party from the Route 232 road, rather than from the Gaza border directly.

A major battle indeed took place at the Re’im military base. As noted above, the base’s commander, Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld of the Gaza division, made the difficult decision to call in helicopter airstrikes on the base to repel the attack while he was barricaded in the underground command center.

Because the concert was canceled and evacuated after the 6:30 am Hamas missile barrage, this led the concert attendees to rush to their cars and seek to exit via the same road the Hamas fighters were traveling on. Because there is only one road in the area, and the Re’im military base was just minutes away, it was inevitable that the Hamas fighters would encounter the evacuating party goers.

This indicates Hamas did not plan to carry out a premeditated massacre at the Nova festival. They encountered the partygoers as part of the broader Al-Aqsa Flood military operation.

Philistine Horseman

However, the AP and other media accounts contain another important omission. Though the army was slow in responding to the Hamas fighters breaking out of Gaza, units from the Border Police were immediately dispatched to respond, including at the Nova site.

As noted above, Maj. Gen. Amir Cohen, commander of the Border Police, gave the order, code-named “Philistine Horseman,” at 6:42 am to mobilize the forces under his command. The rapid response of the Border Police was crucial in halting the advance of the Hamas fighters north to Ashkelon and potentially even Tel Aviv.

Among the Border Police were elite commandos from Yamam. The name derives from a Hebrew acronym that means “special police unit.”

In 2018, Vanity Fair described Yamam as one of the “most fearsome counterterrorism units in the world,” whose “work over the last four decades has been shrouded in secrecy” due to its classified nature.

As noted above, Team Tequila, an elite commando unit affiliated with the Shin Bet, was also quickly deployed. Yedioth Ahronoth reported that “at 07:26 the [Team Tequila] fighters had their first encounter with dozens of terrorists.”

The Yedioth Ahronoth report stated further that one Yamam unit had killed 200 Hamas fighters in multiple encounters on 7 October, and “above all stopped the terrorists from moving north. Their motivation was to get as far north as possible and capture strategic targets. The Yamam fighters stopped the attack with their bodies.”

The report said that nine Yamam commandos were killed in the battles and quoted a senior official in the Defense Ministry who noted that “in the first stages we [Yamam] were the last line of defense against the terrorists.”

Finally, the report explained that “The Yamam soldiers fought on Shabbat Simchat Torah in several sectors: the police station in Sderot, at a military base in Nahal Oz, on Route 232, on Route 34, and in Kibbutz Be’eri.”

The Route 232 highway includes the stretch of road passing the Nova festival site and which links the Re’im military base and Kibbutz Be’eri.

Crucially, a source speaking with Yedioth Ahronoth said Yamam units were specifically directed to the Re’im junction “to stop the terrorists.”

Helicopters in the Sky

As noted above, the New York Times reported that elite police commando units from the Yamam responded to the Hamas attack on 7 October in various places, not only by road but also by helicopter.

Sagi Abitbol, a policeman working as a security guard at the festival, was among the first to confront Hamas fighters near Nova and witnessed the early arrival of these helicopters.

Abitbol recounted to i24 News that shortly after the 6:30 am rocket fire began, he received a report of a shooting on the road near the festival. He and one other officer, Eliona Astafniko, then went by vehicle to investigate. On the Route 232 road, only 220 meters from the concert area, they found a man who told them a group of terrorists had shot at his car. Abitbol said he called for reinforcements and continued driving to try to pursue the terrorists, not understanding that large numbers of Hamas fighters were coming to the area.

He and Astafniko then encountered two vehicles full of seven Hamas fighters each. A firefight erupted, but the two officers were badly outmanned and outgunned. Officer Astafniko was quickly killed, while Abitbol played dead in the field where he had taken cover.

According to Abitbol, he was saved when two Israeli helicopters appeared in the sky nearby. The Hamas fighters shot three RPGs at the helicopters but missed. The fighters then got back in their vehicles and abruptly retreated.

A dash cam video from a Hamas pick-up truck appears to show the early moments of the Nova battle. The road appears to be blocked and a number of Hamas fighters get out of their trucks and begin walking forward on the road. Many cars line the road and one of them is burning. A Hamas fighter sees a helicopter in the distance and fires an RPG at it, also missing. Two fighters are then seen walking in the opposite direction bringing a hostage back toward the trucks.

In a Battle With the Terrorists

A security guard at the festival named Dennis described the presence of both police and Border Police from the beginning of the fighting, and that soldiers later fought a major battle against Hamas fighters on both sides of Route 232 near the Nova site.

Dennis stated that about twenty minutes after Hamas fired missiles from Gaza, he started “hearing gunshots from every direction, from 360 degrees,” as well as “explosions and seemingly endless bursts.”

Dennis explained that in the concert area there was a makeshift “police precinct” with many police cars, including from the Border Police (Magav) and an ambulance. Paramedics set up a tent where they treated injured people, including a girl who had been shot in the head.

Dennis said that a short time later, a van full of Hamas fighters arrived and some thirty to fifty people scattered and fled into the parking lot which was still full of cars. The Hamas fighters began chasing and firing at them.

Dennis explained further that he escaped into the forest and hid in a ravine for two hours until he saw members of the police and ran to them.

He later huddled with others from the rave as soldiers engaged in a shootout with Hamas fighters on both sides of the road near them.

Dennis then explained that “we all sat down, lying on the [ground], while they were in a battle with the terrorists.”

Dennis himself was shot and lightly injured, as “there were still terrorists as they could come from any direction … The soldiers simply spread out in all directions. We had a small group of combatants with us. And everyone else spread out.”

A cell phone video from the Nova site shows some concert goers seeking cover along with five or six policeman exchanging fire with Hamas fighters. The police are dressed in black and armed only with handguns, distinguishing them from the heavily armed Border Police and Yamam commando units wearing olive color uniforms and helmets.

The Bomb Shelters

Some Partygoers at Nova were able to escape the site and either by foot or car managed to reach other kibbutzim on Route 232, including Be’eri and Alumim. Small concrete bomb shelters line the road, where Israelis are meant to take cover when Hamas fires rockets from Gaza.

In several cases, partygoers crowded into these roadside shelters and were killed or taken hostage by Hamas fighters.

Officer Abitbol, the policeman mentioned above who had an early confrontation with Hamas fighters, said he found a group of 100 partygoers and took them to a shelter. Along with another soldier, he guarded the entrance until the battle ended.

One partygoer, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was taken hostage to Gaza after hiding in such a shelter. “Witnesses said Goldberg-Polin lost part of an arm when the attackers tossed grenades into a temporary shelter where he and others had taken refuge, but he tied a tourniquet around it and walked out before being bundled into the truck,” the AP reported.

One dash cam video released by the Israeli army shows Hamas or other Palestinian fighters opening fire, throwing grenades, and finally even shooting an RPG at a bomb shelter on the side of a road. The fighters seem to believe some inside have weapons, as they quickly shoot inside the shelter and move away from the entrance. After firing into the shelter multiple times, the fighters then behave more casually.

Someone inside the shelter picks up a grenade and throws it back out, only for the Hamas attackers to throw another inside, and finally to shoot an RPG at the entrance. One man runs out of the shelter seeking to escape, and Hamas fighters shoot him as he runs into the road.

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper claimed to identify four shelters north and south of the festival site where Hamas shot or killed partygoers with grenades.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Zaka rescue service found up to 30 bodies in the bomb shelters and other areas outside the Nova site after the attack.

Police Checkpoints

Multiple survivors of the concert said that as they evacuated the party in their cars following the initial Hamas missile barrage, the police established checkpoints on Route 232 near the festival exit, causing a traffic jam. When gunfire erupted, partygoers got out of their cars and escaped into an open field to the east, away from the festival site.

One partygoer, Millet Ben Haim, said the road had been blocked by the police for those leaving the Nova site and trying to head north. She stated that “We got out, we made a right turn. The police officer told us the other way is closed. So we went to the right.”

But after a minute of driving, people came up to her car window and said “there is terrorists waiting for the cars over there and they are shooting everybody. So we made a quick U-turn to the direction that we already know is supposedly closed and we don’t know why. But we know the other way there is terrorists shooting at us.” She described hearing continuous bursts of heavy automatic gunfire which she attributed to Hamas.

One cell phone video from a concert attendee shows Israeli police and security forces using their vehicles to block the road near the festival site and exchanging fire with Hamas fighters.

Another survivor, Shye Weinstein, also stated the police had set up roadblocks which he and his friends encountered as they tried to leave the Nova site by car. He took photos of the Border Police blocking the road in front of them.

The photos included one of a Border Police vehicle and another of a policeman exiting his vehicle wearing SWAT style clothing and body armor with a machine gun. Shye and his friends then drove off the road and headed east into an open field in their car. They also soon heard gunshots and, in a panic, got out of their car and began running through the field.

Another survivor, Yarin Levin, also stated that the police erected barricades on the road as he was evacuating the party. “I went up to the 232 Road, which is now called the ‘Death Road.’ And I went up and someone shouted ‘terrorist!’ Everyone started to freak out. There was a lot of confusion. The police barricaded the road, so we couldn’t go near Be’eri. We couldn’t go near Re’im, the two near kibbutzim,” he said.

Levin stated further that, “I could see them. Like the first encounter of the terrorists … fighting against the police that are there … the two terrorists got lost in some kind of gun fight, so they found us.”

Levin does not state what happened when he and his friends encountered the Hamas fighters.

Levin then describes further that after that encounter, “we started driving and we went over 232 Road to the east … At that point we got stuck inside the field. And then we got ambushed … We got ambushed really hard. It was something I never thought I would see before. We got out of the car. And the amount of gunfire you hear, it was exceptional. All of my [military] service, I never heard this. It was crazy. A whole platoon was like firing at us. It was crazy. We got out of the car and started running. Just like running east.”

Another cell phone video captured the moment when large numbers of people began fleeing through the dusty fields together on foot. Many made it past the fields and hid in nearby trees, under bushes, and in ravines.

Disguised as Police Officers?

The partygoers assumed they were being ambushed by Hamas, but there is another possibility.

Crucially, body cam footage published by the Daily Mail shows heavily armed Israeli police units taking up positions on the 232 road and opening fire. They first shoot into forested areas and then across an open field, allegedly at Hamas fighters. The police then spread out and begin entering the forested areas on foot.

This means that the commandos may have also been opening fire on any partygoers who had escaped across the fields and hid in the forested areas.

Multiple partygoers who survived the festival reported being fired upon by armed men wearing Israeli army or police uniforms. Because they could not imagine their own military and police firing on them, these survivors therefore assumed they were being attacked by Hamas fighters disguised as Israeli forces.

Germany’s Bild tabloid newspaper reported the testimony of a woman identified as Maya P., who worked as a bouncer at the festival. She claimed that Hamas fighters disguised as police officers and soldiers killed many of the attendees.

The 19-year-old and her boyfriend were among the hundreds of people who tried to reach their cars once the attack began.

Bild writes, “It quickly becomes clear: the only road that leads to safety is blocked on both sides by terrorist blockades … The terrorists who set up the road blockades came disguised as police officers and soldiers.”

“People ran into them hoping to be rescued, and then they were executed,” Maya said, crying.

But, as noted above, it was the Border Police who had established roadblocks in each direction near the festival exit onto Route 232.

Another survivor, Yuval Tahupi, stated to CNN, “A police lady told us, most of the terrorists are dressing like soldiers, as cops, as security guards, so don’t trust anyone.”

Another survivor described how as he was hiding in the trees, three jeeps appeared carrying men wearing army uniforms, making him think the army had arrived to save him. “I waved my hands at them,” he explained. “They pointed weapons at me and started raining down [gunfire] on me. And then I understood these were not army forces. I understood these forces [Hamas] were still here, and they are simply wearing army uniforms.”

The BBC interviewed Gilad Karplus, a festival survivor and former Israeli soldier, who said: “We pretty much knew they would probably block the road. I’m pretty sure a lot of people got killed on those roads.”

“We drove into the field and tried to hide from them … afterwards we got a bit deeper into the fields and then they started firing sniper rifles on us from different places and also heavy artillery,” he added.

In the BBC article, it is presumed that Karplus was being fired on by Hamas fighters, but as journalist Ian Davis observed in his important review of the events on 7 October, Hamas was not known to have heavy artillery. So, who was firing on Gilad Karplus and other partygoers in the fields with sniper rifles and heavy artillery?

This raises the question of whether elite commandos from Yamam opened fire on partygoers deliberately, per the Hannibal directive.

As mentioned above, an investigation by Yedioth Ahronoth indicates the Hannibal Directive was indeed issued on 7 October. The Hebrew language newspaper reported that “at noon on October 7, the IDF [Israeli army] ordered all of its combat units in practice to use the ‘Hannibal Procedure’ although without clearly mentioning this explicitly by name [emphasis mine].”

The order was given to stop “at all costs any attempt by Hamas terrorists to return to Gaza, that is, despite the fear that some of them have abductees.”

This raises questions about body cam footage published by South First Responders that appears to show the aftermath of a Hamas massacre at Nova. The footage shows a soldier from an “elite unit” who appears to arrive at the Nova festival site after the fighting ended. The footage shows the soldier holding a handgun as he enters a camping trailer that partygoers would have stayed in during the multi-day festival.

The officer yells out to anyone inside while his gun is drawn. After looking inside the trailer and finding no one, he exits and moves across an open dirt area toward the area near the festival stage where a bar was set up under a canopy to sell drinks to partygoers. With his handgun still drawn, the soldier finds at least a dozen corpses of partygoers apparently killed by Hamas fighters. Their bloodied bodies are strewn on the ground among tables and red coolers with Coca Cola logos. One victim appears to be wearing the black uniform of a police officer who provided security at the festival.

While the corpses appear very real, several aspects of the video point to staging. The soldier filming the video is not the first person on the scene, as several other soldiers appear standing casually next to the camping trailer with machine guns. It does not make sense that the soldier enters the trailer as if he has no idea if any partygoers, dead or alive, may be inside.

As the soldier exits the trailer and heads directly toward the bar to find the corpses, the shadow created by the sun behind him shows that he is not filming from a body cam, but from a cell phone that he is holding in his left hand just above his right hand which is holding the gun.

If the officer is responding to the scene of a massacre for the first time, fearing that Hamas fighters may still be nearby, it is doubtful he would bother to also film with a cellphone in this way, making it more difficult for him to respond if attacked.

Additionally, a pink festival sign and large umbrella seem to be carefully placed over several of the bodies, conveniently advertising the location of the alleged massacre.

There are also no bullet holes in any of the coolers, which seems unlikely if Hamas fighters had opened fire on dozens of partygoers with machine guns, killing them on the spot.

Finally, a black plastic garbage bag is sitting on top of one of the corpses. It appears the bag was placed on the leg of the corpse. It is unclear why a Hamas fighters would carefully place a garbage bag on the corpse, only for an elite Israeli commando to be the first to see it while clearing the area.

This indicates the bar scene was possibly staged with corpses to recreate the scene that the Israeli army wanted to portray, namely that Hamas massacred partygoers as they were still dancing and listening to music, and that Israeli forces only arrived much later to discover the aftermath.

While it is certainly possible Hamas fighters killed the partygoers depicted in the video, it is also possible they were killed by elite commandos from Yamam, per the Hannibal Directive, and that the scene was staged to depict a Hamas massacre.

The war in Syria between 2011 and 2018, in which Israel played a prominent but largely hidden role, involved many elaborately staged videos of this sort. Such videos were used to accuse the Syrian government of massacres that were carried out by opposition armed groups, such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Nusra Front, the official Al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria. Both groups enjoyed western, including Israeli, support.

The most notorious incident involving such staged videos in Syria was the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack, which I have written about in detail elsewhere.

Apache Helicopters Arrive

Israeli Apache attack helicopters were also dispatched to the Nova site, where they opened fire on Hamas fighters, but also killed Israeli partygoers as well.

Haaretz wrote that, “According to a police source, an investigation into the incident also revealed that an IDF combat helicopter that arrived at the scene from the Ramat David base fired at the terrorists and apparently also hit some of the revelers who were there.”

The partygoers were therefore escaping not just gunfire from Hamas fighters and the Israeli Border Police, but also missiles, rockets, and high caliber machine gun fire from Apache helicopters, and even fire from armed drones.

A survivor of the festival, Noa Kalash, told Time magazine on 10 October she was terrified as a result of all these forces as she hid in the bushes for hours.

She explained that “I just freaked out. I couldn’t stop running … We’ve been in this bush for eight hours, completely silent, not able to speak, or to breath, or do anything. We are just hearing everything around. We hear guns all over the place and people shooting and we can already recognize if its terrorists shooting or if it’s the army. Or it is an airplane, or a helicopter or rockets … I still don’t know how many friends I have lost. I know people that were left behind in the party. People who didn’t run like me, were murdered on the spot [emphasis mine].”

The situation was further complicated by a second wave of Palestinians who rushed across the Gaza border fence to loot and take hostages. According to testimony of a captured Hamas fighter given to Israeli police, word had spread that Hamas would provide a free apartment and cash to anyone successfully bringing an Israeli captive back to Gaza.

One young woman who survived the rave said that while Hamas fighters had military vests, uniforms, and carried weapons, others “were just people like you and me in blue jeans and sneakers. Some were barefoot. Some even came on a horse, on pick-up trucks.”

In one case, a young woman, Noa Argamani, was seen on video being bundled on to the back of a motorcycle at the Nova site by apparently unarmed Palestinians as she was crying and screaming for help.

This would have made it extremely difficult for Israeli forces to distinguish between these Palestinians and the Israeli Nova attendees and would give incentive to the Apache pilots to simply open fire on everyone, Palestinian or Israeli, turning the Nova site into a free-fire zone.

Mass Hannibal

Because Israelis such as Argamani were being taken back to Gaza as hostages, this suggests the Apache helicopter pilots may have deliberately targeted them, per the Hannibal Directive.

As mentioned above, Israeli Air Force (reserve) Colonel Nof Erez suggested Israeli civilians were deliberately targeted by Israeli forces on 7 October, describing the response of Israel’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters on the Gaza border as a “mass Hannibal” event.

An apparent instance of the Hannibal Directive in action at the Nova site was inadvertently documented by the BBC. The British state broadcaster writes that in car dash cam footage its journalists reviewed, “a group of [Palestinian] men appear. Only one is armed – they appear to be there to loot … Two people, a man and a woman, who were hiding in a car are discovered and led away.”

The BBC explains further that, “The woman who was taken suddenly reappears two minutes later. She jumps and waves her arms in the air. She must think help is at hand – by this time, the Israeli Defence Forces had began [sic] their efforts to repel the incursion. But seconds later she slumps to the floor as bullets bounce around her. We don’t know if she survived.”

This suggests that her Palestinian captors were killed by Israeli forces, allowing her to get free, but that she was then gunned down by Israeli forces as well.

In Broad Daylight

That this woman was killed at the exact moment she thought she would be saved its reminiscent of another instance that occurred over two months later, but this time in Gaza, when Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Israelis who had been taken hostage by Hamas on 7 October but had managed to escape.

When an Israeli army unit reached the area in the Shujaiya neighborhood where the men were hiding in a building, the three men took off their shirts to show they had no weapons and fashioned a white flag. They then exited the building and approached the soldiers, thinking they would be saved.

However, an Israeli sniper shot all three, killing two and injuring the third. The injured man escaped back into the building, only to come out again later yelling in Hebrew for the soldiers to save him. Another soldier then shot him dead as well.

The Israeli military acknowledged the incident, claiming the soldiers had acted against protocol by killing three men that were clearly unarmed and appeared to be civilians, while still claiming it was an accident.

But the father of Alon Shamriz, one of the Israeli hostages, claimed the soldier who shot them did so deliberately. The soldier “knew who he was dealing with,” given the telescopic sight on his sniper rifle.

“They were walking in broad daylight [toward the soldiers], it wasn’t dark. They walked in the middle of the road and the troops there just slaughtered them,” Alon’s father said.

Full Penetration

Israeli forces may have turned the Nova site into a free fire zone and fired on partygoers for another reason. Recall that the Border Police and Yamam units stated it was Hamas’ goal to penetrate further into Israel, north toward Tel Aviv, and that they had successfully prevented this.

The BBC report shows that many of the cars that were destroyed and burned during the battle were found on Route 232 to the north of the festival site.

It is possible that the units that responded to the Nova Festival were given orders to prevent Hamas from moving north past Re’im along Route 232 at all costs.

If so, it would make sense to establish roadblocks and turn the site into a free fire zone, with both elite Yamam commando units on the ground and helicopters in the sky opening fire on Hamas fighters, even at the cost of hitting partygoers.

This could be justified as the unfortunate but necessary cost to prevent Hamas from penetrating deeper into Israeli territory in the north. Had Hamas fighters reached all the way to Tel Aviv, this would have been an even more shocking blow to Israel than what occurred on 7 October.

If These Cars Could Talk

Some have suggested that although Israeli helicopters bombed the Nova site, the number of partygoers they accidentally killed was small compared to the hundreds massacred by Hamas that day.

Police officials later tried to deny the Haaretz report of helicopters killing revelers at Nova, claiming their investigation focused solely on police activity, and not any army activity, and therefore did not provide “any indication about the harm of civilians due to aerial activity there.”

But if the Apache pilots deliberately targeted the partygoers, the odds they killed large numbers of them are very high, given the firepower involved.

It should be noted that Apache helicopters can be armed with Hellfire missiles, Hydra 70 rockets, and 30mm M230 chain machine guns.

Hellfire missiles are laser-guided and typically deployed against tanks, bunkers, and structures. An Apache helicopter can hold two Hellfire missiles per mount and has four mounts.

These same mounts can instead hold tubes which fire Hydra 70 rockets, which are unguided, and according to Military TV “have versatile applications ranging from anti-personnel and anti-vehicle attacks to illumination and smoke screening [emphasis mine].”

The launch tubes can hold 19 rockets each, for a total of up to 76 rockets if four tubes are mounted. The most commonly used warhead for the Hydra 70 is the M151 “10-Pounder,” which has a blast radius of 10 meters and lethal fragmentation radius of about 50 meters.

The M230 30 mm chain machine gun can be equipped with high explosive dual purpose (HEDP) or high explosive incendiary (HEI) ammunition. Incendiary ammunition can light the target on fire upon impact. An Apache helicopter can hold up to 1,200 rounds of ammunition for the M230 gun.

Apache pilots have a helmet mounted display unit linked to the gun which is mounted near the helicopter’s nose. Whenever the pilot moves his/her head, the gun will follow. When the pilot sees the target within the crosshairs of the display unit, then he/she simply needs to squeeze the trigger to fire.

According to The Military Show, “What really makes the Apache so deadly is how far away it can locate and detect targets.” The Apache radar system can detect targets several miles away. And with a top speed over 220 miles per hour, “the enemy is not even aware that the Apache has arrived.”

Partygoers under fire from the Apache helicopters may therefore not have been aware who, or what, was firing on them.

As noted above, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Hannibal Directive was issued on 7 October to stop Hamas fighters from returning to Gaza at all costs, even if they were taking captives with them.

In the same report, the paper added that “In the week after the attack, soldiers of elite units checked about 70 vehicles that were left in the area between the settlements and the Gaza Strip. These are vehicles that did not reach Gaza, because on the way they were shot by a combat helicopter, an anti-tank missile or a tank, and at least in some cases everyone in the vehicle was killed.”

Many Israelis were likely killed in this same manner at Nova.

Eyewitness testimony and video footage of the aftermath of the Nova party shows many destroyed cars at the Nova site, including many that were burned and others that appear to have been run over by a tank.

The Israeli military released aerial drone footage showing a huge number of cars destroyed in the fighting at the Nova site which were later moved to one place to form a make-shift junkyard.

Notably, many bodies of the dead were completely burned, as helicopter fire apparently hit cars in the Nova parking lot and lining Route 232 with partygoers hiding inside them.

A report from Haaretz stated that, “Israel’s October 7 disaster has more than one Ground Zero. But one of the most shocking is the parking lot where a rave was held near Kibbutz Re’im. It’s impossible to describe the scenes there in words. You can only list the sights that go on for a kilometer.”

The report continues, saying that “There are hundreds of burned and bullet-riddled cars, huge wet bloodstains buzzing with flies and emitting a sickening odor, bags with body parts collected by the ZAKA [rescue] organization, thousands of bullets and casings and shrapnel of every kind.”

A Times of Israel journalist who visited the Nova site days later recounted that, “dozens of cars were parked in rows, some of them burnt husks containing charred bodies of young festival-goers who were shot and burned alive.”

The use of incendiary 30 mm caliber bullets would likely explain why so many corpses and cars of partygoers were burned. Because the cars remained largely structurally intact, this suggests Hellfire missiles were not used. These missiles would have completely obliterated any cars, and bodies, of partygoers rather than just burning them. But the 30 mm incendiary bullets would have first killed the partygoers and then lit their bodies and the cars they were in on fire, completely burning the corpses.

Two rescue workers from the United Hatzalah rescue group who evacuated bodies from the festival described the “smell of burning flesh,” telling the Times of Israel, “So this is the death road. All this place, for three kilometers, bodies. Outside, inside cars, outside cars, on the road. It is unreal to drive here.”

Saving Bullets

Incredibly, Israeli officials claim it was Hamas fighters who destroyed hundreds of cars at Nova, burning their passengers alive. But Hamas did not have this kind of firepower.

The group’s fighters were armed only with light machine guns and RPGs, and their ammunition was limited to what they could bring with them in pick-up trucks from Gaza.

Guardian journalist Owen Jones noted this while discussing a 43-minute compilation of video footage from 7 October shown to select journalists by the Israeli army. He says Hamas fighters at Nova “urge bullets to be saved for killing soldiers. One terrified reveler in a car is asked, ‘Are you a soldier?’”

Jones notes further that, “So there is clearly some distinction being made between civilians and soldiers in the footage selected by Israel of the thousands of hours of footage which we don’t see.”

The massive disparity in fire power suggests Israeli forces caused much of the destruction, and did much of the killing, at Nova.

Buried Together

Two of the charred bodies causing the Nova site to smell of burning flesh were 58-year-old Erick Peretz and his 17-year-old daughter, Ruth.

Erick devoted his life to taking care of Ruth, who had cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. As a result, she was wheelchair bound and could barely speak.

But she loved music festivals, and she and Eric often attended them together.

After 7 October, Erick and Ruth’s bodies could not initially be found, leading Erick’s adult daughter, Yaarit, to think they had been taken hostage back to Gaza.

Yaarit had lost contact with her father at 7:40 am that morning.

She heard reports that Erick was seen running away with Ruth in his arms, leaving her wheelchair behind, but was unable to confirm any information and heard nothing more from them.

Twelve days later, on 18 October, the official X account of the State of Israel announced that Erick and Ruth’s bodies had finally been found. “They were brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists,” the post claimed.

That Hamas killed Erick and Ruth is unclear, however. Rami Shmuel, a producer of the Nova festival and friend of Erick’s, later provided additional details of the circumstances of their deaths. He stated that, “We found his body but couldn’t find hers … They had been so badly burnt we didn’t realise it was two bodies we had buried, not just one.”

This was confirmed when Erick’s body was later exhumed, and an autopsy performed.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Yaarit was later told by health authorities “they found that the bodies of my father and Ruth were connected, that father and Ruth died hugging each other.”

Had Hamas killed Erick and Ruth, the bodies would likely have been found riddled with bullets from machine guns. But because their bodies were so badly burned that they could not be distinguished from one another, this suggests they were killed by more powerful weapons, such as Apache helicopter incendiary fire, while Erick was holding Ruth in his arms.

The Half-Moon Necklace

The case of Shani Gabay, who worked as a security guard at the Nova festival, was similar.

According to her brother, Shani fled the Nova festival and hid in a shelter near Kibbutz Alumim, a fifteen-minute drive north on Route 232. He said Hamas fighters threw grenades in the shelter forcing her and others to flee and escape back to the festival area.

A picture posted to social media showed Shani being treated at a police command post at the Nova site, with blood on her left leg and foot.

According to The Messenger, Hamas later attacked the police post, and Shani was presumed missing, likely kidnapped to Gaza.

But after 47 days, the police discovered she had been mistakenly buried along with the charred remains of another young woman from the party.

Shani’s burned, halfmoon necklace was found at the Nova site, which also had DNA from the other young woman.

This prompted the police to exhume the other young woman’s body and do a CT scan, which found two skulls. Shani was positively identified by her teeth. The bodies had been so badly burned they were joined together.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported further that Shani and the young woman were allegedly killed when Hamas fighters launched an RPG at an ambulance in the trees at the Nova site in which both where hiding.

Other reports suggested she was “found completely burned inside an ambulance set on fire by Hamas terrorists.”

The obvious other possibility is the ambulance was lit on fire by Israeli helicopters shooting incendiary machine gun fire that struck the front of the vehicle or the ground near it (in the spot later covered by a rug, as seen in the photos below). This is likely given that there is little structural damage to the burned ambulance itself, and Shani and the other woman’s bodies were so badly burned.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported a similar case, noting that at the entrance to the Nova site “lies the bloated skeleton of what appears to be a commercial vehicle.”

“That’s the ambulance from the massacre,” a Zaka volunteer named Ohayon said.

“Some of the younger guys tried to take shelter in it, but it didn’t help them. The terrorists fired an anti-tank missile, and the ambulance caught fire. ZAKA personnel found the remains of eight bodies inside and beneath it. Eventually, DNA traces of no less than 16 victims were found in it.”

The 16 victims were apparently taking cover under the ambulance, thinking it would help save them as they were being fired upon.

While the Zaka volunteer suggested Hamas had fired the anti-tank missile, this is once again far from clear. Recall that the Yedioth Ahronoth investigation of the Hannibal Directive indicated Israeli forces had destroyed many cars using anti-tank missiles near the Gaza border.

The destruction at Nova, likely from incendiary Israeli fire, was further evident in the cars that were struck alongside Route 232 near the festival site. South First Responders published a picture of a destroyed car and wrote that “Along the main highway- we see cars burned so badly that their aluminum components simply melted into the street.”

The Scenario Didn’t Make Any Sense

But Hamas fighters were also burned to death by Israeli incendiary weapons. Times of Israel journalists driving along Route 232 on 10 October discovered still burning trees and charred bodies.

“As we approached the fire, a tree burst into flames,” they explained. “The bloated body of a terrorist lay sprawled at my feet, his right arm reaching toward his combat vest. His face was burned beyond recognition. Ten feet away, it was a hellscape. The remains of another terrorist were in flames, his flexed left arm sticking out of the inferno as if to push himself up. The ground beyond glowed orange, dark branches silhouetted against the blaze like the arms of a skeleton.”

The journalists were confused by what they saw, not understanding that Israeli forces had deployed Apache helicopters firing incendiary munitions during the Hamas attack.

“The scenario didn’t make any immediate sense,” they wrote, “but one could surmise from spent bullet shells that the two Hamas invaders were cut down in a firefight, their bodies abandoned next to the road. They were two of the roughly 1,500 bodies of Hamas terrorists that the IDF says it has uncovered inside Israel since the Saturday onslaught.”

It’s Not Rachel

Another scenario that did not make sense was the death of Rachel Dov, a young Israeli woman who attended the Nova concert with her boyfriend.

Her parents, who had immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union, explained what happened to a Russian TV station. On the morning of 7 October, her father saw a photo on an Arab Telegram channel showing Rachel injured in the back seat of a car with the windows shot out. She had been shot in the side of her torso, just under her right arm.

Her father and mother desperately drove south to find her after her boyfriend had sent them their location. The boyfriend said he and another girl were with Rachel. They were doing CPR on her and later said they were hiding underneath the car.

Rachel’s parents drove through the Nova party site and described seeing a car on fire with bodies burning inside on the side of the road. But they are unable to find Rachel.

They later received a report she was being evacuated by army helicopter, but then found she was not actually on the flight. They then searched various hospitals looking for her but found nothing.

A few days later, an army officer came to their home. He apologized, saying he was sorry they couldn’t save her. The army said they identified her body by fingerprints and dental records. But her body was unrecognizable.

Her mother said at the funeral, just four days later on 11 October, “I couldn’t recognize her. I couldn’t understand how it could be … It’s not Rachel.” Her parents could not identify Rachel’s body even by her tattoos.

It’s possible Rachel was first shot by Hamas or in the crossfire from Israeli forces. But because the army knew her location, and her body was totally unrecognizable when it was found, only identifiable by fingerprint and dental records, this suggests she was killed from Israeli helicopter fire on her car, per the Hannibal Directive.

How Many People Were Killed at Nova?

But how many people were killed at the Nova festival?

On 10 October, the AP cited the Zaka rescue service as saying its volunteers removed 260 bodies from the festival site.

Prominent Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman wrote for Yedioth Ahronoth that Zaka was given an order at 10:22 p.m. on Saturday to begin removing bodies. “Within a few hours, 237 bodies were loaded and moved into a line, 207 from the party and the rest from the shelters and the area around the party.”

Almost three weeks later, Haaretz reported that out of 767 total Israelis confirmed killed on 7 October, 139 of these died at the Nova festival.

The later police investigation cited by Haaretz stated that 364 were killed at Nova.

But how many were police officers who had participated in the battle?

On 11 December, over two months after the alleged Nova massacre, Israel’s i24 News reported that, “In total, 58 police officers died protecting the partygoers on 7 October, making it the biggest tragedy in the history of Israeli police.”

However, this may be the total number of police, including the Border Police and elite Yamam commandos, killed in various battles in southern Israel on 7 October.

Before the i24 News report, the Israeli government had announced that many police officers were killed on 7 October, but gave few details about exactly how or where they died due to the military censors and due to the generally classified nature of Yamam’s operations.

For example, Chief Inspector Stas Shainkman, a member of Yamam, was announced killed on 8 October. The report stated only that he died “during fighting with Hamas terrorists in southern Israel.”

South First Responders claimed that 17 police officers were killed at Nova.

Many Hamas fighters and other Palestinians were also killed during the battle, but the numbers are unclear.

One Zaka volunteer, Eli Hazan, said he alone “found around 40 bodies of Hamas terrorists in the field,” near the Nova site.

The bodies of Hamas fighters killed throughout southern Israel were also difficult to identify.

Haaretz reported on 31 October that “According to sources familiar with the identification efforts, about 230 bodies are yet to be identified and are currently at the identification complex in the Shura military base. They estimate most of these bodies belong to the terrorists who entered Israel during the attack, whose identifying data wouldn’t be in the system. Many of the other bodies are of foreign citizens, most of them agricultural workers, and the rest are missing Israelis.”

As mentioned above, Israel claimed they killed 1,500 “terrorists” throughout southern Israel on 7 October, presumably including Hamas fighters, fighters from other Palestinian resistance factions, and Palestinian looters.

How Many Did Hamas Kill? How Many Did Israel Kill?

Among the Israeli civilians, it is unclear how many of these were killed by Hamas, and how many were killed by Israeli forces, including by Apache helicopters, due to friendly fire or the Hannibal Directive.

As discussed above, some were certainly killed by Hamas, given the footage of Hamas fighters firing  bullets and throwing grenades into bomb shelters, this would include the roughly 30 bodies found in the shelters, as reported by Yedioth Ahronoth.

But given the massive fire power deployed, as evidenced by the huge number of destroyed cars and burned bodies, it is likely that Israeli forces killed many, even most, of the Nova partygoers.

Ronen Bergman interviewed Michal Yaniv, head of the foreign relations division at the National Military Police, regarding allegations that Hamas had committed mass rapes on 7 October, including at the Nova party.

Yaniv stated that “The goal is to prove that there was a specific instruction to abuse women,” but “I must say that at the moment there is no unequivocal proof of this.”

Bergman then asks, “How did we get to the point where there are so many atrocities, but they have no conclusive evidence?”

Yaniv responds that, “Unfortunately, forensic evidence is almost non-existent, because most of the bodies were burned.”

This may explain why the initial count of the dead was increased from 260 to 364 after several weeks. It took time to identify so many burned bodies.

The Incentives

It is also likely Israeli forces killed large numbers of the Nova party attendees, given that, paradoxically, Israeli forces had more incentive to kill partygoers than did Hamas and other Palestinians.

Hamas wanted to take Israelis alive as hostages to exchange for the thousands of Palestinians long imprisoned, effectively as hostages, in Israel. Hamas was offering financial rewards for captives, which caused many Palestinian looters to also flood across the border in a second wave long after the Hamas fighters broke through the Gaza fence.

This incentive may explain the strange and tragic case of Shani Louk, a young German-Israeli woman who was taken hostage at the Nova festival. Video went viral of Palestinians transporting her limp body back to Gaza in the bed of a truck. Her family later received indications she was taken to a hospital in Gaza for treatment for a serious head wound and that she was in critical condition.

If Hamas and other Palestinians’ goal was to kill as many Israelis as possible at the festival, they would have simply shot her in the head and left her body. Instead, Palestinians tried to take her back to Gaza and potentially tried to save her life. It is possible they did so out of compassion, but they likely wished to receive a financial reward from Hamas by taking her captive.

For example, one Israeli woman taken hostage from a kibbutz to Gaza in a stolen golf cart on 7 October said her captors passed her to Hamas and she was taken into the tunnels below Khan Younis only after a negotiation took place.

Israeli authorities later claimed forensic examiners found a small piece of Shani Louk’s skull at the Nova site. They matched the bone to her DNA and declared that she was dead.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog made the strange claim that “these barbaric, sadistic animals simply chopped off her head as they attacked, tortured and killed Israelis,” despite the viral video of her being taken to Gaza, which gave no such indication she had been beheaded.

At the same time, the Israeli Border Police and Air Force were incentivized to kill their fellow Israelis at Nova, rather than save them, whether per the Hannibal Directive or as collateral damage to prevent Hamas from penetrating north into the heart of Israeli territory toward Tel Aviv.

These incentives may explain how Shani Louk was fatally injured.

Yedioth Ahronoth journalists visited the scrapyard where 1,200 vehicles destroyed on 7 October were brought, “including about 280 cars that were burnt to a crisp.”

The manager of the yard showed one car in which four people were killed.

“ZAKA removed the bodies in the field, but when it arrived here, two of our workers, Yarin and Chaim, found a piece of skull on the driver’s seat,” the manager said.

It is unclear if this piece of skull belonged to Shani Louk, but her father was told she was killed while escaping the Nova festival in a car.

Of course, it is possible that Hamas shot her, but it is just as likely that she was hit by shrapnel from Israeli heavy weapons. Recall that Hydra 70 rockets fired from Apache helicopters have a lethal fragmentation radius of about 50 meters.

The Matter of the Captives

As I have detailed elsewhere, the logic of Zionism ensures that the survival and sovereignty of the Israeli state takes priority over saving the lives of individual Jews. Israeli leaders therefore have few qualms about sacrificing individual Israeli Jewish citizens to achieve larger Zionist goals, such as expanding the territory of Greater Israel.

In 1938, as efforts were underway to evacuate Jewish children from Germany following Hitler’s Kristallnacht pogroms, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion revealed that:

“If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.”

There is significant evidence for example, that the most important goal of Israel’s ongoing military campaign is not to retrieve the Israelis taken captive by Hamas, but the conquest and ethnic cleansing of Gaza for the sake of rebuilding the Gush Katif bloc for Jewish settlement.

A prominent proponent of resettling Gaza is Israel’s influential finance minister and settler leader, Bezalel Smotrich. As noted above, the Guardian reported that during a cabinet meeting late on 7 October, Smotrich urged the Israeli army to “hit Hamas brutally and not take the matter of the captives into significant consideration [emphasis mine].”

We Were Very Important to Them

These incentives have persisted well into the war as Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza, allegedly with the contradictory goals of defeating Hamas and freeing the hostages taken on 7 October.

Upon her release from captivity in Gaza following a prisoner exchange, an Israeli woman, Chen Goldstein, told Israel’s Channel 12 News that she and fellow captives spent one night in a supermarket that was bombed by the Israeli army. During the bombing, their captors put them under a mattress and laid on top of it to protect them.

“[T]hey, our guards, our captors, the terrorists, were on top of us, protecting us with their bodies … from the army fire because we were very important to them,” Chen explained before asking, “When will Israel start protecting the kidnapped people who are still in captivity?”

Another released hostage complained during a meeting with Netanyahu and the war cabinet that “You claim that there is intelligence [indicating where the hostages are], but the fact is that we were being shelled.”

Another released captive said during the same meeting that while she was in Gaza, “there was shelling all around. We were sitting in the tunnels, and we were terribly afraid that not Hamas, but Israel would kill us, and then they would say – Hamas killed you.”

In short, the hostages in Gaza were viewed by Netanyahu and other members of the war cabinet as a hindrance to their effort to prosecute the war on Gaza, while the hostages’ lives were at the same time very important to Hamas.

This same logic applies to events at the Nova festival and the kibbutzim near Gaza on 7 October.

It Would Not Be Morally Sound

Of course, if Hamas massacred all or most of the 364 Israelis who died at Nova, as Israel officials claim, it should have been easy to confirm this.

The bodies could have been collected using standard protocols, photographed, and examined with CT scans. The bullets or shrapnel fragments in any bodies could be examined to see if these came from Hamas or Israeli weapons. The vehicles in which the concert goers died could be examined to see what weapons destroyed them or lit them on fire.

But Israeli authorities have resisted investigating what happened at the Nova festival and elsewhere on 7 October.

Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Yoav Zeitun reported that Israel acknowledged it had killed some of its own through “friendly fire” but that “the IDF [Israeli military] believes that … it would not be morally sound to investigate” these cases.

The Israeli police declined to photograph, or even properly examine, the bodies of the Nova victims, and quickly destroyed evidence at the Nova site using bulldozers to ensure that what really happened will never be conclusively determined.

In discussing how Eric and his 17-year-old disabled daughter Ruth were mistakenly buried together, Ronen Bergman reports for Yedioth Ahronoth that a strange decision was made, before 7 October, to process any bodies of a civilian mass casualty event at the Shura military base, rather than at the various civilian sites previously designated in training exercises.

Bergman writes that for years, police officials had been preparing for extreme scenarios, such as an earthquake, chemical weapons attack, severe industrial disaster, or a missile war with Hezbollah that might result in up to 15 thousand deaths. For this purpose, the Ministry of the Interior designated 14 sites throughout the country, most of them large halls or sports fields, where the victims would be collected and their corpses processed.

Four times a year, Ministry of the Interior personnel carried out training exercises with the forensics laboratory teams in preparation for such an event.

But, Bergman writes, “sometime before the war, the Ministry of the Interior and the police came to the conclusion that the sites allocated for special complexes in a multi-casualty event were not really suitable. Therefore, the army should allocate the old, partially equipped facility” at the Shura military base, which was previously designated only for processing soldiers’ bodies and “whose sanitary conditions are problematic, to say the least.”

Down the Drain

Even though a CT scan is critical for determining the circumstances of a person’s death, at the Shura base, “There was one CT machine, old and stuttering. Only after professional officials warned that it was far from meeting the needs, another one was brought in, also old; And a third – which was faster, but without a workstation, that is, without the ability to check the results in real time.”

According to an internal memo from the Ministry of Health obtained by Bergman and Yediot Ahronoth, “In the absence of a CT scan, there is a lack of data about the injuries, the morbid conditions that developed, and the survival time. Information that would be relevant to the investigation or in providing answers to the families of the victims.”

Despite the importance of CT scans, police officials ordered the CT them waived on 7 October, which helped lead to multiple victims, such as Eric and Ruth, being buried together.

Another problem was that at Shura, “there was no running water in the taps, no soap in the facilities,” according to the memorandum of the Ministry of Health. “Since it was not possible to wash the bodies, basic tests, such as weighing and measuring height, were not carried out. No forensic medical investigation was carried out,” the internal memo said.

Further, hundreds of bodies “could not be identified at all with the means available” at the Shura base and they were transferred to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir.

The task of processing the bodies was further complicated because, as mentioned above, the remains of many had been so badly burned, a further sign many were killed by tank and helicopter fire.

Forensic anthropologist Michal Peer told Yedioth Ahronoth that, “a significant portion of the bones that have arrived and continue to arrive at our facility were burnt at temperatures of 700 degrees Celsius, destroying all organic matter and eliminating any possibility of identification.”

However, the limited staff at the institute also did not carefully document the condition of the bodies or carry out tests and autopsies to determine the cause of death.

Bergman adds that despite internationally recognized protocols, such as that of the Red Cross, in most cases the institute personnel “were satisfied with only partially opening the body bag and photographing only the head of the deceased and perhaps the chest or hands. In this way, most of the body area of most of the bodies was not recorded, which does not and will not allow the world to know why they died, or if, for example, they were sexually abused.”

“The bodies were not photographed as required and they did not even bother to document the injuries,” summarizes the internal memo from the Ministry of Health, “so that a significant part of the explanatory effort to present evidence of cruelty and abuse of the murdered went down the drain.”

In other words, there was no effort to collect evidence to back up the wild and implausible claims later presented by Israel that Hamas had carried out mass rapes at the festival and elsewhere.

For example, an alleged survivor of the Nova festival claimed that “she watched militants gang-rape a woman as she lay on the ground. The men then stood her up as blood trickled from her back, yanked her hair and sliced her breast, playing with it as they assaulted her. The last man shot her in the head while he was still inside her.”

Given the Hannibal Directive and likelihood that Israeli forces killed many or even most of the victims at the Nova festival, this raises questions of whether the choice to avoid proper documentation of the bodies was deliberate. The opportunity was not just lost to potentially prosecute Hamas fighters captured by Israel during the attack, but to show that Israeli forces in fact did most of the killing.

This is further suggested by Israeli efforts to destroy evidence from the Nova site itself.

Bergman further details how, “A few days after the terrible massacre that took place there, the bulldozers also stormed the huge compound of the Nova party at Re’im. A guard from the trucking company made sure that the workers did not take pictures … And, given the general confusion that still prevailed in the country, it was strange to see them come so early. Doesn’t anyone want to preserve something from the whole horrific event?”

Bergman explains that the Nova site was a “huge crime scene” with endless amounts of evidence that should have been carefully collected and preserved, but “the bulldozers came and wiped out all traces of the party. The thousands of vehicles that arrived at the scene, in some of which the revelers found their deaths from the murderers’ bullets, were loaded by special cranes and moved to another arena.”

According to Bergman, “All of this may also damage the array of evidence that the prosecution will surely want to present in Israeli or international courts, where the perpetrators of the October 7 atrocities will be prosecuted.”

Conversely, it will hide the array of evidence indicating that Israeli military and possibly political leaders ordered the murder of hundreds of their own citizens by issuing the Hannibal Directive.

Pandora’s Box

Despite the destruction of evidence, another possibility to establish who killed many of the victims at Nova could come by viewing the substantial video evidence that emerged from body cams of killed Hamas fighters, or car dash cams and cell phones of the partygoers.

Bergman notes as well that “In secret units of the intelligence community in the Aman, the Military Intelligence Directorate, and the Shin Bet, huge databases were established, collecting reams upon reams of hundreds of thousands of films and photos that documented the horror.”

This database is called “Pandora,” named after the box from Greek mythology that when opened, allows evil to escape into the world.

The task of handling the video fell to the army “because we have the ability to organize quickly. We have the infrastructure – both computers and visual aids – to handle these materials,” a senior military official told Bergman.

Israeli Army Spokesman Brigadier General Daniel Hagari led the effort to establish the database, and soldiers under his direction used the video footage to cut a roughly 45-minute video, allegedly showing horrific Hamas atrocities on 7 October.

Rather than release the carefully curated footage publicly for scrutiny, the video was shown only to select journalists and western politicians viewed as sympathetic to Israel. The journalists were then asked to write articles detailing the horrific things they saw, while politicians were asked to vote to provide additional weapons for the Israeli army to continue the war in Gaza.

But what about the footage Army Spokesman Hagari chose not to include in the curated video? What would it show?

What would it show us about the role played by Apache helicopters, Zik drones, and Merkava tanks in possibly killing Israelis at the Nova rave and in the kibbutzim on 7 October?

Ronen Bergman reports further that, “On separate computers, separated from the Internet, the [army] spokesman and other units hold the materials that it was decided would never be released, not for publication, not for private viewing by journalists, nor for the eyes of leaders or diplomats [emphasis mine].”

The refusal to release this footage for anyone to see suggests it contains evidence of Israel’s killing of its own civilians using tanks, attack helicopters and drones. But because Army Spokesman Hagari will not release the footage, we unfortunately will never know.

Use Your Platform

But even the edited footage shown to journalists did not show the atrocities Israel claimed Hamas had committed.

As noted above, Guardian journalist Owen Jones was invited to watch the video. He found that Israel’s most high-profile claims were conspicuously absent.

After seeing the video footage, Jones explained that, “We were told of large-scale beheading, including of 40 babies … [But] we don’t see children being killed … If there was torture, no evidence is given … If there was rape and sexual violence committed, we don’t see this on the footage either.”

But Jones did acknowledge the horrific nature of many scenes the footage contained. He described a Hamas fighter using a grenade to kill a father in front of his two young sons, and then callously taking a drink of cola from the family’s fridge. Jones described a Hamas fighter brutally beheading an injured Thai farm worker with a garden tool.

Jones stated that he and the other journalists were “told at the beginning of the screening, the point of this exercise was to encourage us to use our platforms to defend Israel’s onslaught on Gaza,” which by that time was widely condemned as constituting genocide and had killed almost 20,000 Palestinians, and as Jones pointed out, almost 8,000 children.

The case of the father killed in front of his two sons was cited not only by Jones but by many other journalists who saw the video as a clear indication that Hamas was intent on murdering civilians during the 7 October attack.

But crucial details were again omitted. The father killed by the Hamas fighter was Gil Tas from Moshav Netiv HaAsara, which lies directly on the northern border between Israel and Gaza and forms part of the chain of settlements built to encircle Gaza militarily.

Tas gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth in 2006 in which he was identified as the head of the Moshav security team.

Following 7 October, the IDSF explained that, “Most of the members of the civilian emergency squad at Moshav Netiv HaAsara are veterans of elite units. They were prepared for a terrorist incursion and had practiced their defense.”

When Hamas attacked the moshav, Tas went to a bomb shelter with his two youngest sons, Koren, 12 and Shay, 8.

“There were huge explosions and dad and I and Shay heard terrorists on the road behind us, and he told us to be quiet and not talk,” Koren told the Kan public TV station. Kan added that, “Gil grabbed his personal weapon and shot at the terrorists until he ran out of bullets, his son recalled.”

A Hamas fighter then threw a grenade into the shelter they were hiding in: “There’s no way he wasn’t afraid, but he decided to save us and he jumped on the grenade… there was an explosion, I saw smoke, suddenly we were covered in blood,” Koren said.

Koren explained further that the fighters came to check that Gil was actually dead, then took the boys back to their home and drank the cola that was in the fridge and left the house. The two wounded brothers ran next door to their mother, where they hid in their safe room for hours until they were evacuated. Shay ultimately lost sight in one eye from shrapnel wounds.

Regarding the allegedly callous act of drinking a cola from the fridge, one journalist who saw the film said “One of the terrorists opened the refrigerator as the boys sat on the couch together. He seemed to offer them a drink from their fridge.”

This is of course a horrific incident that will traumatize the young boys forever, but the Hamas fighters did not seek to murder civilians, as the carefully edited video shown by the Israeli army to journalists implied. The Hamas fighters killed an armed combatant after a firefight, and likely had no way to know the boys were in the shelter with him. Once the Hamas fighters killed Tas and found the boys, they did not murder them, let alone behead them.

Instead, the Hamas fighter was carrying out a military operation, meant to break out of Gaza and resist occupation.

Who Are Zaka?

Because Israel has no forensic evidence from bodies, video footage, or photographs to substantiate its most horrific claims, such as that Hamas beheaded 40 babies on 7 October, it has instead sought to launder such claims through various rescue organizations staffed by ultra-orthodox religious volunteers.

These groups, the most prominent of which is Zaka, are allowed to remove bodies and provide burials according to Jewish law after law enforcement has responded to a crime scene.

Despite having no expertise in forensic investigations or documenting crime scenes, these volunteers were given access to the various kibbutzim and Nova party sites to collect the bodies.

Ronen Bergman writes further that, “Part of the problem lies in the fact that Zaka volunteers, dedicated and full of good will, but lacking the appropriate training, were also entrusted with the fateful documentation task.”

This further contaminated the crime scene at the Nova party and kibbutzim and made determining what happened impossible.

Despite this, the AP relied on testimony from Zaka volunteers to claim that Hamas had massacred 260 Israelis at Nova.

But not only the competence but the credibility of Zaka as an organization has long been suspect.

In 2019, Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Zaka was suspected of using shadow organizations to funnel millions of dollars of donations for private use, even as the organization faced bankruptcy.

Zaka’s reputation was further damaged in 2021, when another Haaretz investigation revealed that the organization’s founder, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, had sexually assaulted women and molested children for decades.

In 2022, a Haaretz investigation found the organization had reported over 3,000 volunteers, receiving state funding on this basis, while in fact the group had no more than a 1,000 volunteers.

Beheaded Babies?

Yossi Landau, the head of operations in southern Israel for Zaka, has peddled many of the most obviously false Hamas atrocities. He told CBS News on 11 October that “he personally saw adults and children, including babies, who had been beheaded.”

However, when Business Insider requested confirmation from Zaka of Landau’s claim, the organization did not comment.

The claim had originated a day before Landau repeated it. The i24 news site, seen as close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed on 10 October that, “Some soldiers say they found babies with their heads cut off, entire families gunned down in their beds. Multiple babies and young children have been taken out on gurneys — so far.”

The next day, an Israeli military spokesperson stated the claim could not be confirmed but asked reporters to believe it anyway. “We couldn’t see it with our own eyes, but obviously, it happened … This stuff happens,” he told the Intercept on 11 October.

Israeli military spokesman Major Nir Dinar also claimed Hamas had beheaded babies, but when Business Insider also pressed him for confirmation, he said only that the military would not seek further evidence for the claim because it would be “disrespectful for the dead.”

U.S. President Joe Biden even repeated the claim, saying he saw “confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.” But neither the president nor US officials had seen images or heard independently confirmed reports of beheaded children, a White House spokesperson later clarified.

Days later, Landau made another outlandish and unsubstantiated claim. On 13 October, he claimed to AFP that in the very first home he entered in Be’eri, he found a woman whose, “stomach was ripped open, a baby was there, still connected with the cord, and stabbed.”

Landau had no photographs to back up any of his claims, even though documenting shocking cases was apparently a long-held practice in the group.

“These are the photos from our road trips,” Zaka volunteer Dano Montokovitch ironically told the Jerusalem Post in 2009, as he flipped through photos of deceased corpses, including of a garage owner who put a grenade in his mouth after falling deeply in debt.

“Can you handle really terrible pictures? I’ve got one that shows his face in pieces,” Montokovitch asked.

AFP notes that Zaka representatives later walked back their outlandish claims regarding 7 October.

“When we find bodies that are burned or in a state of decomposition, we can easily be mistaken and think the body is a child’s,” said Haim Otmazgin, a Zaka leader.

One Zaka volunteer claimed he had seen 20 children with their “hands tied in the back, shot and burned” in Be’eri, when in fact nine children died there, including some killed by Israeli tank fire, not Hamas fighters.

“Our volunteers were confronted with traumatic scenes and sometimes misinterpreted what they saw,” said Otmazgin.

But the damage was done. By claiming that Hamas has carried out the worst atrocities imaginable, Zaka has therefore played a crucial role in obscuring the Israeli army’s own role in killing many of its own civilians and soldiers that day.

Crucially, according to an investigation by Haaretz, Otmazgin was not only a Zaka leader, but also a soldier in the Israeli army reserves.

Otmazgin and other Israeli soldiers gave frequent media appearances wearing Zaka’s signature yellow vests. This allowed army statements surrounding the events of 7 October to appear to come from a neutral third-party source.

As I have detailed elsewhere, this suggests that that Zaka is not just a volunteer rescue organization, but an intelligence cutout used to launder army propaganda. The group has served the same function for Israel that another alleged rescue group, the White Helmets, served for the Al-Qaeda groups fighting the Syrian government during the US-backed regime war that started in 2011.

Baking Babies in Ovens?

Eli Beer, founder and president of another rescue organization, United Hatzalah, made similar false claims.

While attending the Republican Jewish Coalitions’ Annual Leadership Summit in Las Vegas on 28 October, he claimed that “A little baby in the oven – These bastards put these babies in the oven and put on the oven … We found the kid a few hours later.”

The story quickly went viral following its posting on X by New York Sun reporter Dovid Efune, who was at the convention.

However, the Jerusalem Post later pressed Beer on the claim. Beer stated that neither he nor anyone from his organization had found the baby in an oven. Rather, another United Hatzalah volunteer, Asher Moskowitz, had seen the body of a baby in a body bag at an identification center at the Shura military base several days after the Hamas attack.

Moskowitz claimed that “Most of the bodies from Kfar Azza were burned, but what I saw with this body— it was relatively complete, but hard like a rock, and on its stomach was the sign of a heating element, like a half a circle or a big chain.”

But again, many bodies in Kfar Azza were burned due to Israeli tank and helicopter fire.

Moskowitz continued by saying that someone from Chevreh Kadishah, the Israeli military organization that prepares bodies for burial, told him that “based on the signs on the body, it looks like they put him inside the oven alive,” and he said, “they found the baby dead inside the oven.”

Further speaking with the Jerusalem Post, Beer then walked back the claim, saying it was “possible that a mother hid the baby in the oven, like some hid their babies in closets and washing machines or refrigerators.”

“It makes sense that a mother would put the baby in the oven to save it then Hamas burned down the house,” he said. “A lot of babies were burned by gasoline. So many babies died … Why is someone doubting what I say?”

The Jerusalem Post went on to report that no other journalists have been able to verify the claim.

This included Israeli journalist Ishay Cohen of the Haredi Kikar HaShabbat news website. Cohen tried to confirm the story with the Israeli military, Zaka, the Shura military base, and other sources, but was unable to.

Haaretz journalist Chaim Levinson also investigated the claim and said, “I checked. Did not happen.”

Eli Beer made other unsubstantiated claims during his Las Vegas speech mirroring those of Yossi Landau of Zaka. Beer also claimed that “I saw little kids who were beheaded. We didn’t know which head belongs to which kid … I cried for five days straight I couldn’t stop crying.”

He claimed further that “I saw [with] my own eyes a woman who was pregnant, four months pregnant … They came into her house, in front of her kids, they opened up her stomach and stabbed the tiny baby and then shot her in front of her family.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, Beer’s fabricated claims, Beer was interviewed multiple times on CNN, while Israeli leaders arranged for him to travel to the leadership summit in Las Vegas where he met with President Joe Biden, as well as Senators, members of Congress, Republican nominees for president, and the Republican Party leadership.

The Jerusalem Post reported that “United Hatzalah explained that they hope by having Beer explain the traumatic events, he will garner more support before the Senate votes on a military aid package for Israel.”

Amateurish and Crooked

In some cases, such false atrocity stories were planted by the army in the media directly.

On 28 November, Yishai Cohen, the journalist mentioned above who debunked the story of the baby being cooked in an oven, published video of an interview in which an Israeli soldier claimed that dead “Babies and children were hung in a clothesline in a row,” in Be’eri.

Cohen later deleted the video, as the claim could not be confirmed. But the video garnered hundreds of thousands of views on the social media site X during the eight hours it was online. Other X users continued to share the clip after Cohen deleted the post.

One X user criticized Cohen, writing, “How do you upload such a video online without having 100% certainty? Why is everything here amateurish and crooked?”

Cohen explained the reasons for his mistake, saying the interview was offered to him by the Israeli army spokesperson.

“I did not know the interviewee before. A representative of DoC was present in all the filming and approved the broadcast,” he said.

“After posting the promo, there were complaints, so I immediately deleted it within minutes. And yet, even this morning, the IDF [army] spokesman refrained from claiming that this was a false story. By the way, the interviewee insists that the story is accurate and there was even another witness to this.”

Haaretz journalist Amir Tibbon criticized Cohen for taking the soldier’s word, and not confirming the story before reporting it, especially as only one baby was killed in the kibbutz on 7 October.

In response, Cohen explained, “I admit that I didn’t think it was necessary to check the truth of a story brought by a lieutenant colonel, a general officer of the Gaza division, and also accompanied by a representative of the DoC. Why would an army officer make up such a horrific story? I was wrong.”

An Editorial Decision

While the stories of mass killings of babies were rather quickly debunked, claims that Hamas committed mass rape on 7 October persisted, though again without evidence.

On 9 November, the Times of Israel (TOI) shockingly wrote that “The sexual abuse committed by Hamas includes acts of gang rape, genital mutilation and necrophilia.”

However, TOI reported further that the Israel Police investigations unit, Lahav 443, which was tasked with investigating Hamas’ alleged sexual crimes, made the decision not to use “time-consuming crime scene investigation protocols to document rape cases.” Further, “morgue officials have not designated individual cases as rape because of a lack of court-compliant physical proof.”

The TOI report stated further that although Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had said that Hamas committed acts of “murder, rape, [and] kidnapping,” the “government has not released explicit footage or pressed rape survivors to share their stories. Nor have the forensic services released formal reports on whether their findings were consistent with sexual abuse.”

The TOI report stated the paper had itself had investigated the rape claims, but that, strangely, “An editorial decision was made not to pursue leads to survivors of sexual abuse.”

Two months later, after a concerted public relations campaign to promote the narrative that Hamas committed mass rape on 7 October, including from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press, the Israeli press quietly admitted that no such evidence exists.

Haaretz’s Hebrew language edition wrote on 4 January 2024, “The police are having difficulty locating victims of sexual assault from the Hamas attack, or people who witnessed such attacks, and decided to appeal to the public to encourage those who have information on the matter to come forward and give testimony. Even in the few cases in which the organization collected testimony about sexual offenses committed on October 7, it failed to connect the acts with the victims who were harmed by them.”

As journalist Sharmine Narwani notes, despite this lack of evidence, “Israel still ran 24/7 media blitzes about ‘rapes and beheadings.’”

As The Grayzone detailed, many of the most shocking claims of rape and sexual violence appear to have been “fabricated by Israeli soldiers or members of ultra-Orthodox ‘rescue organizations’ which immediately exploited their newfound prominence to raise millions of dollars.”

However, these false Hamas atrocity stories have had a deep impact on Israeli society, which at the same time fails to see the suffering of Palestinians caused by its military’s bombs.

According to Raphael Mimoun, an American Jewish activist who lived for several years in Israel, propaganda of this kind has created an environment where “Israelis (and Zionist Jews around the world) live in a parallel world. They know alternate historical facts that feed more nationalism, militarism, and extremism.”

Conspiracy Theories

The Israeli media also makes it difficult for Israelis to see and understand the events of 7 October clearly.

There are countless accounts in the Israeli press about events in Be’eri, Kfar Azza, and other kibbutzim, and the vast majority make no mention at all of the helicopters, drones, and tanks deployed.

This suggests a significant level of censorship of media reports from that day.

Israeli law mandates journalists submit any article to the military censor before publication if it discusses national security issues. The military censors therefore prevent sensitive information damaging to the Israeli state from coming to light, while many Israeli journalists simply self-censor, understanding in advance what material may or may not be approved for publication. If sensitive information does make it into the Israeli media, it is often later removed and taken offline.

According to a freedom of information acted filed by +972 Magazine, in 2022 the Israeli military censor blocked the publication of 159 articles across various Israeli media outlets, and censored parts of a further 990 articles.

Coverage in the foreign press is also influenced by the military censors. For example, CNN reporters, whether in Israel or outside, must submit their stories related to Israel and Palestine to the network’s Jerusalem bureau, which is subject to the military censors, for approval.

As noted above, Yasmin Porat detailed the Israeli army’s killing of Israeli civilians held captive by Hamas in Be’eri. Crucially, as the Electronic Intifada details, her interview was quickly censored and unavailable on the website of the Israeli media outlet, Kan, with whom she spoke.

In another interview Porat gave to CNN, she mentions that both her Hamas captors and fellow hostages were killed, but there is no mention of who killed the hostages.

Further, any Israeli revealing details the Israeli army killed its own civilians, police, and soldiers on 7 October can now be prosecuted, which further discourages anyone from providing such testimony.

For example, the Electronic Intifada also observed that part of Yasmin Porat’s Kan interview was posted on at least one Hebrew-language account on X, formerly Twitter, on the day it was released. The X user accused Kan of functioning as “media in the service of Hamas.”

Yedioth Ahronoth published a report on 18 October, just three days later, explaining that Israelis who “echo conspiracy theories of Hamas and Iran,” regarding events on 7 October “are expected to soon find themselves in the interrogation rooms of the police.”

“We will reach out to anyone who tries to harm the public’s peace and security, among other things, by publishing news of this kind or theories of this kind and another that the enemy is trying to echo in Israeli society,” Deputy Superintendent Dror Asraf, head of the intelligence division of the Israel Police, stated.

Resisting Occupation

But why did Hamas attack Israel on 7 October?

Israeli officials have promoted the narrative that Hamas massacred Israelis at Nova and elsewhere on 7 October because they wished to kill Jews as such.

In November, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens traveled to Israel. On his return, he wrote that, “Hamas’s goal is only secondarily political. Fundamentally, it’s homicidal: to end Israel as a state by slaughtering every Jew within it.”

Stephens argues further that Israel must therefore “defeat Hamas as the reigning power in Gaza, even though there will be unavoidable cost in innocent lives, since Hamas operates among civilians.”

By claiming Hamas seeks to replicate the Nazi Holocaust, many Israelis therefore argue they are justified in bombing Gaza and killing Palestinian civilians using the criminal tactics employed by the US and its allies in German cities like Dresden during WWII.

However, Hamas fighters killed Israelis at Nova and elsewhere on 7 October not because they are Jews but because they are occupiers. Certainly Hamas and other Palestinians killed some innocent civilians during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation, and this is obviously condemnable and tragic for the Israeli victims and their families. But civilian casualties happen in all wars, and Hamas did not kill huge numbers of civilians in a massacre as Israel claimed, nor did they try to.

Because Israel is a settler colonial state seeking to displace the native Palestinian population, Israeli society is highly militarized. The distinction between civilian and soldier is therefore blurred in ways most outside observers may be unaware of.

Israeli leaders often say Hamas attacked “peaceful kibbutzim” without acknowledging the role of these communities as settler colonial outposts, nor of their role as military garrisons helping the Israeli army enforce the siege of Gaza.

For this reason, Hamas fighters were battling Israeli soldiers and security squad members in the midst of children and the elderly. Hamas deserves blame for not just taking soldiers captive, but also civilians as hostages, including children and the elderly. At the same time, this should be seen in the context of the thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, held hostage in Israeli prisons.

This blurring of civilian and military further was illustrated at the Nova festival. Unlike at a music festival in the US or Europe, Hamas fighters would have expected many, if not most, of the Nova attendees to be soldiers. This is due to Israel’s policy of mandatory military service for Israeli Jews, both men and women, with the exception of the ultra-orthodox, or Haredi.

Starting at age 18, Israeli Jewish men complete 32 months of service, while women complete 24. Soldiers who have completed their service can then be called up for reserve duty, in most cases until the age of 40.

Western and Israeli media reports following the Nova massacre indicate that many attendees were current soldiers or had recently finished their mandatory service.

For example, among the Israelis killed during the Nova rave, was Niv Tel Tzur, 22, from Ramat Gan. Haaretz lists him as among the civilians killed that day, but notes that “Tel Zur served as a commander in an infantry unit team and was the country’s champion in powerlifting.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a lengthy profile of one young Israeli man, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was taken captive from a bomb shelter near Nova. As mentioned above, he was injured by a Hamas grenade before being bundled into a truck and taken to Gaza. The WSJ interviewed his parents extensively but made no mention of his military service.

Only in a separate report in the Jewish Weekly do we learn that Goldberg-Polin, who was born in Berkeley, California but moved to Israel at age seven with his parents, had just completed his mandatory military service in April.

The magazine writes further that, “The [Nova] party was supposed to be the kind of revelry that recently discharged soldiers tend to enjoy.”

As noted above, the AP cited extensive testimony about the concert from Maya Alper, a “tank instructor in the Israeli army.”

Gunning Down Children

The connection between the Nova rave and the occupation is illustrated by the case of another young woman, Gaia, who was killed, allegedly by Hamas, on 7 October. She was shot in her car as she tried to escape the festival.

Israeli broadcaster Kan detailed her story by interviewing her devastated parents. The Kan report states that Gaia was a combat medic in the Duvdevan unit of the Israeli army.

The Duvdevan unit is an elite commando brigade known for its undercover operations in urban areas in the occupied West Bank. Its soldiers speak Arabic and often wear civilian clothing to disguise themselves among the Palestinian populace while carrying out raids, assassinations, and abductions.

Former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, who established the unit in 1988, said, “I want a unit whose people will look like Arabs, speak like Arabs, and ride bicycles in the marketplace of Nablus as if they were on Dizengoff Street” in Tel Aviv.

Defense for Children International (DCI) reported that on 16 March 2023, Israeli special forces dressed as civilians killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy after shooting him in the back with live ammunition. Omar Mohammad Omar Awadin was riding his bicycle outside his parents’ shop in the northern West Bank city of Jenin when he was shot.

As of 22 August 2023, over one month before the 7 October Hamas attack, Israeli soldiers had killed 34 Palestinian children in the West Bank since the beginning of the year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.

“Israeli forces are gunning down Palestinian children living under occupation with increasing frequency,” Bill Van Esveld, HRW’s associate children’s rights director stated.

Some of these were teenagers throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at the soldiers occupying their towns and villages.

In January, Haaretz reported that since “December 2021, soldiers are allowed to shoot at Palestinians who are fleeing if they had previously thrown stones or Molotov cocktails.”

Others were much younger. In June, Israeli soldiers killed a two-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Tamimi. The soldiers shot Muhammad in the head while in a car with his father parked outside their home near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The soldiers also shot Muhammad’s father in the chest and killed him.

On 30 January 2024, undercover Israeli forces disguised as doctors and women killed three Palestinian fighters in an operation in a hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Hamas member Mohammad Jalamana and Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Ghazawi were visiting Mohammad’s brother, Basel, in the hospital when the raid occurred.

Basel Ghawazi, also of Islamic Jihad, was in the hospital because he had been partially paralyzed in an Israeli airstrike on a Jenin cemetery that also killed a 15-year-old boy.

The undercover units made their way to a room on the third floor and shot all three men in the head using pistols fitted with silencers. The killings were captured on the hospital’s CCTV cameras.

Just as it is not right for Hamas fighters to kill current or former Israeli soldiers if they are unarmed at a rave, it is not right for Israeli undercover units to kill current or former Hamas or Islamic Jihad fighters who are unarmed at a hospital.

The western press and governments roundly condemned Hamas for raiding Israel on 7 October, likening the attack to 9/11 and justifying a major military response that has killed tens of thousands in Gaza. But such raids by Israel in the West Bank occur regularly and are typically not even reported.

Israeli forces occupying the West Bank have been killing Palestinians, including children, in this way not just in the past year, but for decades.

Seeing Through the Nonsense

One way to see past Israeli propaganda and get an objective view of events on October 7 is to look further at the casualty numbers.

The Times of Israel reported that a total of 274 soldiers, 57 Israel Police officers, 38 local security officers and 764 civilians were killed on 7 October.

Among the civilians are two infants, 12 other children under the age of ten, 36 civilians aged 10-19, and 25 elderly people over the age of 80, accounting for 75 of the 764 civilians.

This alone is enough to refute Israel’s propaganda claiming Hamas beheaded 40 babies and committed atrocities resembling those of ISIS.

Further, an unknown but large number of the 764 were killed by Israeli forces in their homes, in cars as they were being taken hostage to Gaza, or at the Nova festival. Among them are the 12-year-old twins Liel and Yanai Hetzroni.

As noted above, at least 1,200 vehicles were destroyed on 7 October, “including about 280 cars that were burnt to a crisp.”

Did Israeli helicopters kill 100 Israeli civilians in those burnt cars? 300?

Nearly half of Kfar Azza’s homes were damaged or destroyed on 7 October, the New York Times reported. The young adult quarter, where the 20- to 30-year-olds lived in rows of small apartments, “is a charred monument to the tragedy.”

How many Israelis were killed by tank, helicopter, and drone fire in those homes?

Some 364 Israelis died at the Nova party, but “most of the bodies were burned.” How many were shot and burned to death by incendiary M230 Apache helicopter machine gun fire?

This does not excuse Hamas’ shocking killing of innocent Israeli civilians on 7 October in some cases. But neither do Hamas’ actions excuse Israel’s yet more shocking killing of Palestinians both before and since 7 October.

A Million Bodies

Israel’s media blitz promoting fabricated Hamas atrocity claims served both to deflect attention from its military’s role in killing many of its own civilians in Be’eri, Nova, and elsewhere on 7 October, and to whip the Israeli public into a frenzy demanding revenge against not only Hamas, but all Palestinians in Gaza.

Fake atrocity stories have made it easy for Israelis to dehumanize Palestinians. Calling for the killing of all Gazans is now common and accepted in Israeli public discourse.

On 9 October, Defense minister Yoav Gallant declared that “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”

Asked in an interview, whether an atomic bomb should be dropped on Gaza, Israel’s Heritage Minister, Amichai Eliyahu, stated, “this is one of the possibilities … there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza.”

Member of the Likud party and Knesset member Revital Gottlieb stated, “Flatten Gaza. Without mercy! This time, there is no room for mercy!”

“It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved, it’s absolutely not true,” stated Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“If, in order to finally eliminate the military capabilities of Hamas … we need a million bodies, then let there be a million bodies,” stated Israeli journalist Roy Sharon.

“Erase Gaza, don’t leave a single person there,” stated Eyal Golan, a popular Israeli singer.

As a result, Israeli historian and Holocaust scholar Raz Segal, has called the Israeli bombing campaign, “A textbook case of genocide.”

“Israel has been explicit about what it’s carrying out in Gaza,” he wrote. “Why isn’t the world listening?”

Lots of Dismembered Bodies

Despite these many direct statements of intent, Israeli military spokespersons continue to claim the army is not targeting Palestinian civilians directly. They say they are targeting Hamas, which has embedded itself in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.

As a result, bombing targets in Gaza that result in the deaths of huge numbers of Palestinians is unavoidable, they argue.

The Israeli military made this claim specifically regarding a series of attacks on Jabaliya, a densely populated refugee camp in northern Gaza.

On 9 October, as the stand-off in Be’eri was still underway, Israel bombed Jabaliya, killing at least 50.

A Gazan injured in the attack told AFP, “I was walking towards the camp [the market] to buy things for my children. Without warning, the bombing hit the heart of the market. There were a lot of people there. It hit right in the middle of the street. It was hysteria. There were lots of dismembered bodies. It was incredible.”

Three weeks later, on 31 October, Israel also struck Jabaliya, hitting a crowded residential area. The 2,000-pound bomb, fired from an Israeli F-16, formed a massive 40 foot-wide crater, again killing some 50 people.

An Israeli military spokesman justified the strike, claiming to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer that Israel was targeting a senior Hamas commander.

In a telling exchange, Blitzer asked, “But even if that Hamas commander was there amidst all those Palestinian refugees … Israel still went ahead and dropped the bomb there attempting to kill this Hamas commander, knowing a lot of civilians, innocent men, women, and children would be killed? Is that what I’m hearing?”

In response, the spokesman said only that “there could be tunnels, there could be terrorist infrastructure, we’re still looking into it.”

Blitzer pressed further, asking the spokesman if he knew that many innocent civilians would be killed and whether the Hamas commander had been killed. The spokesman said only that, “This is the tragedy of war” and that he did not know if the commander had been killed. This was an implicit acknowledgement that the Israeli military had no idea if any Hamas commander was in the area.

The very next day, on 1 November, Israel targeted Jabaliya once again, killing 80 people, according to Dr. Atef al-Kahlout, the director of Gaza’s Indonesian hospital. He told CNN more bodies were being dug out of the rubble, and the majority of casualties were women and children.

The following day, 2 November, Israeli strikes hit three UN schools in Jabaliya, which were sheltering about 20,000 people, killing 20 more.

This is just a small sample of the many massacres Israel has carried out in Gaza since 7 October.

We Think They Are Very High

While visual evidence of Israel’s targeting of civilians was undeniable, Israeli officials began to claim the casualty numbers provided by the Gaza Ministry of Health were not reliable because it is controlled by Hamas.

The claim was echoed by President Joe Biden, who claimed he had “no confidence” in the reported death toll in Gaza when it had exceeded 6,500, after just 18 days of fighting.

However, the New York Times quietly acknowledged ten days later that “U.S. officials said their estimates of the number of Palestinians killed were similar” to the Hamas-run health ministry’s.

After two additional weeks of horrific Israeli bombings, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the “intelligence community has growing confidence that reports on the death toll from health authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza are roughly accurate.”

The WSJ reported further that Barbara Leaf, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified on Capitol Hill on 7 November that the death toll in Gaza could be even higher than the ministry was reporting. “We think they are very high, frankly, and it could be that they are even higher than are being cited,” she said.

In December, Reuters also reported that the death tolls reported by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry are considered widely reliable, and are likely undercounted, as thousands remain missing under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

By 7 February, Israel’s military campaign in Gaza had killed at least 27,708 Palestinians and injured 67,174 more.

Among the dead are at least 11,500 children.

Noting this, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz that, “Two hundred and sixty names of babies whose age was 0; names of babies who didn’t get to celebrate their first birthday, nor will they ever celebrate anything else.”

He then listed just a handful of their names: Abdul Jawad Hussu, Abdul Khaleq Baba, Abdul Rahim Awad, Abdul Rauf al-Fara, Murad Abu Saifan, Nabil al-Eidi, Najwa Radwan, Nisreen al-Najar, Oday al-Sultan, Zayd al-Bahbani, Zeyn al-Jarusha, Zayne Shatat.

“What dreams did their parents have for them?” he asked.

The Dahiya Doctrine

But why is Israel intent on killing civilians on a mass scale in Gaza?

As Kenneth McKenzie, a retired Marine Corps general and former top American commander in the Middle East observed on 8 October, “Hamas has challenged the very fundamental concept of Israeli deterrence … It can only be re-established with the application of overwhelming, shocking violence. And it is only getting started.”

To do this, Israel’s stated military doctrine requires killing as many Palestinian civilians as its American sponsors will allow.

As Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi explained, the “Dahiya doctrine” was revealed publicly in 2008 by Major General Gadi Eizenkot, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military during the 2006 June War between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

During the war, an entire southern suburb of Beirut in which Hezbollah enjoys strong support was devastated from the air by Israeli forces under Eizenkot’s command.

The general stated: “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on … From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases … This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”

But even this was just the articulation of a long held Israeli custom of targeting Palestinian civilians. Noam Chomsky noted that according to Israel’s most prominent military analyst, Zeev Schiff, “the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously…the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets…[but] purposely attacked civilian targets.”

Conclusion

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have committed numerous atrocities over the course of the now 75-year conflict. Israel has committed atrocities as well, but on a vastly larger scale, as a comparison of the death toll on both sides, both before and after 7 October, shows.

But not only the numbers killed, but the reason each side is fighting is crucial to consider.

As noted above, the current conflict did not start on 7 October, but goes back to at least 1948, when Zionist militias employed rape and massacre as tools to effect the forcible “transfer” of some 750,000 Palestinians from the land needed to establish the state of Israel.

David Ben Gurion and other Zionist leaders understood that they needed to “cleanse” the majority of the indigenous population, the Christian and Muslim Arabs, from what was then British Mandate Palestine, to create a state with a Jewish demographic majority.

In “Going to the Wars,” historian Max Hastings writes that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current prime minister, told him in the 1970’s that, “In the next war, if we do it right, we’ll have the chance to get all the Arabs out … We can clear the West Bank, sort out Jerusalem.”

Israel is now using the 7 October Hamas attack as a pretext to “complete the job,” as Israeli historian Benny Morris described it, in those parts of Palestine they conquered and occupied in 1967, but failed to ethnically cleanse and annex, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

In contrast, the Palestinians, the indigenous population, wish to resist the Zionist colonial project and defend their lands, their homes, and their existence as a people.

While this fact is forbidden to mention in the western press in reporting about 7 October, it was acknowledged by David Ben Gurion, an immigrant to Palestine from Poland before he became Israel’s first prime minister.

Ben Gurion explained in 1938 that, “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view, we want to take away from them their country … Behind the terrorism [by the Arabs] is a movement, which though primitive is not devoid of idealism and self-sacrifice.”

It is therefore unsurprising that Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups are exercising their widely recognized right in international law to resist occupation through armed struggle.

In response to those who expressed shock at the events of 7 October, former U.S. sailor Darryl Cooper observed:

“Where did people get this idea that half a century of brutal military occupation could possibly result in anything but burning hatred of the occupiers by the occupied? How would you feel about foreign soldiers strip searching your sister, or killing your little nephew for throwing a rock at them, or blowing up your parents’ house?”

William Van Wagenen

William Van Wagenen

William Van Wagenen has a BA in German literature From Brigham Young University and an MA in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. You can read his other writings on Syria for the Libertarian Institute here. Follow him on Twitter @wvanwagenen.

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