2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel

(Redirected from 2023 Hamas attack on Israel)

On 7 October 2023, Hamas and several other Palestinian militant groups launched coordinated armed incursions from the Gaza Strip into the Gaza envelope of southern Israel, the first invasion of Israeli territory since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The attack coincided with the Jewish religious holiday Simchat Torah. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups named the attacks Operation Al-Aqsa Flood (or Deluge; Arabic: عملية طوفان الأقصى, romanizedʿamaliyyat ṭūfān al-ʾAqṣā, usually romanized as "Tufan Al-Aqsa" or "Toofan Al-Aqsa"),[1] while in Israel they are referred to as Black Saturday (Hebrew: השבת השחורה)[22] or the Simchat Torah Massacre (הטבח בשמחת תורה),[23] and internationally as the 7 October attacks.[24][25][26] The attacks initiated the ongoing Israel–Hamas war.

7 October attacks
Part of the Israel–Hamas war

Satellite view of widespread fires in Israel around the Gaza Strip on 7 October 2023[6]
Date7–8 October 2023[1]
Location
Result Israeli defensive failure[7]
Belligerents
 Hamas[1]
 Israel[1]
Commanders and leaders
Hamas Yahya Sinwar[a]
Hamas Mohammed Deif[a]
Israel Benjamin Netanyahu
Units involved

Palestinian Joint Operations Room

 Israel Defense Forces

Strength

Per Israel:

  • ~3,000 entered Israel.[16]

Israeli Defence Forces

Casualties and losses
  • 1,609 militants killed[17] (per Israel)
  • ~200 militants captured[b]
  • 1,175 killed[c]
  • 3,400 civilians and soldiers wounded[19]
  • 251 civilians and soldiers taken captive[20] (65 later died or were confirmed dead)[21]
  • 1 missing[21]
  • The attacks began early on 7 October with a barrage of at least 3,000 rockets launched against Israel and vehicle-transported and powered paraglider incursions into Israel.[27][28] Hamas fighters breached the Gaza–Israel barrier, attacking military bases and massacring civilians in 21 communities, including Be'eri, Kfar Aza, Nir Oz, Netiv Haasara, and Alumim. In total the attackers killed 1,139 people:[f] 695 Israeli civilians (including 38 children),[33] 71 foreign nationals, and 373 members of the security forces.[g][34] 364 civilians were killed and many more wounded while attending the Nova music festival.[35][36] The IDF estimated that about 3,000 militants invaded southern Israel, with additional waves of Gaza citizens entering through the breached fences later in the day.[37] About 250 Israeli civilians and soldiers were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip, including 30 children, with the stated goal to force Israel to exchange them for imprisoned Palestinians, including women and children.[38][39][40][41] Many cases of rape and sexual assault reportedly occurred, but Hamas officials denied the involvement of their fighters.[42][43][44][45]

    Hamas said its attack was in response to the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, rising Israeli settler violence, and recent escalations.[46][47][48]

    At least 44 countries denounced the attack as terrorism, while some Arab and Muslim countries blamed Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories as the root cause of the attack.[49][50][51] The day was labeled the bloodiest in Israel's history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust.[52][53][54][55] Some have called the attack a genocidal massacre against Israelis.[56][57][58]

    Background

    Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, since the Six-Day War in 1967.[h][61][62]

    Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement formed in 1987, is the main Islamist movement in the Palestinian territories.[63] It maintains an uncompromising stance on the "complete liberation of Palestine", often using political violence to achieve its goals.[63] Recent statements suggest a shift in focus toward ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and establishing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Hamas has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings[64][65] and rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians.[66] Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, New Zealand, and the UK have designated Hamas a "terrorist organisation". In 2010 it attempted to derail the peace talks between Israel and the PA. In 2017, it adopted a new charter, removing antisemitic language and shifting focus from Jews to Zionists.[67][68][69][70] Scholars differ on Hamas's objectives, with some saying it seeks a Palestinian state within 1967 borders[71] while others believe Hamas still seeks the destruction of Israel.[72][i]

    Before the attack, Saudi Arabia warned Israel of an "explosion" as a result of the continued occupation,[73] Egypt had warned of a catastrophe unless there was political progress,[74] and Palestinian Authority officials gave similar warnings.[74] Less than two months before the attacks, King Abdullah II of Jordan lamented that Palestinians had "no civil rights; no freedom of mobility".[74]

    Events leading to the attack

    Over the course of 2023, there were clashes between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in May 2023, increased settler attacks had displaced hundreds of Palestinians, and clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a contested holy site in Jerusalem.[75]

    Tensions between Israel and Hamas rose in September 2023, and The Washington Post wrote that the two were "on the brink of war".[76] On 13 September, five Palestinians were killed at the border.[j] Israel said it found explosives hidden in a shipment and halted all exports from Gaza;[76] Hamas denied this.[78] Reuters quoted Palestinians who said that the several-day ban affected thousands of families.[78] In response to the ban, Hamas put its forces on high alert and conducted military exercises with other groups, including openly practicing storming Israeli settlements.[76] Hamas also allowed Palestinians to resume protests at the Gaza–Israel barrier.[76] On 29 September, Qatar, the UN, and Egypt mediated an agreement between Israel and Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip to reopen closed crossing points and deescalate tensions;[79] the total number of Gazans with work permits in Israel stood at 17,000.[80]

    Egypt said it warned Israel days before the attack that "an explosion of the situation [was] coming, and very soon, and it would be big."[81] Israel denied receiving such a warning,[82] although Michael McCaul, Chairman of the US House Foreign Relations Committee, said that warnings were given three days before the attack.[83]

    Operational planning

    For two years, Hamas used hardwired phone lines within Gaza's tunnel network, nicknamed the "Gaza metro", to covertly communicate, evade Israeli intelligence, and plan Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. The specific plans were disclosed only shortly before the operation, catching intelligence agencies off guard and enabling a surprise attack.[84]

    In the months preceding the attack, Hamas publicly released videos of its militants preparing to attack Israel. A video released in December 2022 showed Hamas training to take hostages, while another video showed Hamas practicing paragliding.[85] On 12 September, Hamas posted a video of its fighters training to blast through the border.[86] After the attack, the IDF said that Hamas had extensively studied the military bases and settlements near the border.[87][88]

    The Wall Street Journal has accused Iran of being behind the attack.[89] U.S. officials[90] and Iran have denied this.[91]

    The IDF has reported seizing over 10,000 weapons following the attack. The arsenal included RPGs, mines, sniper rifles, drones, thermobaric rockets, and other advanced weapons. According to Israeli sources, documents and maps seized from Hamas militants indicated that Hamas intended a coordinated, month-long operation to invade and occupy Israeli towns, cities, and kibbutzim, including attacking Ashkelon by sea and reaching Kiryat Gat, 20 miles into Israel. The scale of weapons, supplies, and plans indicated, according to Israel, that Hamas intended to inflict mass casualties on Israeli civilians and military forces over an extended period.[92][93] Western and Middle Eastern security officials gathered evidence suggesting that Hamas intended to invade as far as the West Bank, had the initial attack been more successful.[94]

    Israeli intelligence failure

    According to The New York Times, Israeli officials had obtained detailed attack plans more than a year before the attack. The document described operational plans and targets, including the size and location of Israeli forces, and raised questions in Israel about how Hamas learned these details. The document provided a plan that included a large-scale rocket assault before an invasion, drones to knock out the surveillance cameras and automated guns that Israel has stationed along the border, and gunmen invading Israel, including with paragliders. The Times reported, "Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision." According to The Times, the document was widely circulated among Israeli military and intelligence leadership, who largely dismissed the plan as beyond Hamas's capabilities, though it was unclear whether the political leadership was informed. In July 2023, a member of the Israeli signals intelligence unit alerted her superiors that Hamas was conducting preparations for the assault, saying, "I utterly refute that the scenario is imaginary". An Israeli colonel ignored her concerns.[95]

    According to Haaretz, Israel's domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, and IDF military commanders discussed a possible threat to the Nova music festival near kibbutz Re'im just hours before the attack, but the festival's organizers were not warned.[96][97]

    According to a BBC investigation, surveillance reports suggested that Hamas was planning a significant operation against Israel, but senior IDF officers repeatedly ignored the warnings.[98]

    A Ha'aretz investigation found that incompetence in the IDF's higher ranks, including refusal to acknowledge Hamas's preparations for the attacks, was a major cause of the October attacks. The IDF had reduced funding and manpower dedicated to observing Hamas, focusing primarily on rocket sites and ignoring Hamas training and troop movements as well as the activities of the Hamas military leadership. Simulated exercises of Hamas attacks found the Gaza division's response lacking. Cultural conformity was fostered among officers and dissent discouraged. Officers often silenced subordinates to maintain their positions, contributing to a toxic atmosphere where questioning higher-ups' decisions about Hamas was met with apprehension, resulting in most junior officers giving up.[99]

    Attacks

    At around 6:30 a.m. Israel Summer Time (UTC+3) on Saturday, 7 October 2023, Hamas announced the start of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.[100] Qassam commander Mohammed Deif gave a speech mentioning Israel's 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli incursions in West Bank cities, violence at Al-Aqsa mosque, Israeli settler violence with the army's support, the confiscation of property and demolition of homes, arbitrarily detaining Palestinians for years until “they wither from cancer and disease”, Israel's neglect for international law, American-Western support, and international silence. He then described the operation, that they had drawn the line, and that it was to end “the last occupation on Earth”.[101][100] Shortly thereafter, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made a similar announcement in a televised address.[102]

    Participating and supporting organizations

    In addition to Hamas, several Palestinian militant groups voiced support for the operation and participated in it to some extent. The National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the Maoist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), confirmed their participation in the operation through their military spokesman Abu Khaled,[103] saying it had lost three fighters in combat with the IDF.[104] The PFLP (a Palestinian Marxist–Leninist / Secular Nationalist political party)[105] and the Lions' Den group (a nonpartisan militant group based in the West Bank) voiced support for the operation and declared maximum alertness and general mobilization among their troops. The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the PFLP's armed wing, published videos of two of their militants storming Israeli watchtowers.[105][failed verification]

    Rocket fire

     
    Aftermath of Hamas rocket hit on the maternity ward of Barzilai Medical Center, a hospital in southern Israel, during the Hamas-led attack on Israel[106]

    Deif said more than 5,000 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel in a span of 20 minutes at the start of the operation. Israeli sources reported the launch of 3,000 projectiles from Gaza, killing five.[28][107][40][108] Explosions were reported in areas surrounding Gaza and in the Sharon Plain, including Gedera, Herzliyya,[6] Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon.[108] Air raid sirens were activated in Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, and Palmachim Airbase.[109][110][111] Hamas issued a call to arms, with Deif calling on "Muslims everywhere to launch an attack".[40]

    Palestinian militants also opened fire on Israeli boats off the Gaza Strip, while clashes broke out between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces in the eastern section of the Gaza perimeter fence.[109] In the evening Hamas launched another barrage of about 150 rockets towards Israel, with explosions reported in Yavne, Givatayim, Bat Yam, Beit Dagan, Tel Aviv, and Rishon Lezion.[107]

    Incursions into Southern Israel

    Approximate situation on 7–8 October
    Militants kill an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Arab in Sderot.
    Militants killing Israelis in kibbutz Mefalsim.
     
    Blood stain on a house in Be'eri.

    Simultaneously, around 2,900[112] Palestinian militants infiltrated Israel from Gaza using trucks, pickup trucks, motorcycles, bulldozers, speedboats, and powered paragliders.[113][100][114]

    The Sderot police station was reported to have come under Hamas control, with militants killing 30 Israelis, including policemen and civilians.[109][115] Early in the attack they deliberately destroyed the computer systems at the police station. This disabled communication and delayed the response to the attacks.[116][117][118]

    Images and videos appeared to show heavily armed and masked militants dressed in black fatigues riding pickup trucks[108][111] and opening fire in Sderot, killing dozens of Israeli civilians and soldiers and setting homes on fire.[119] Other videos appeared to show Israelis taken prisoner, a burning Israeli tank,[120][40] and militants driving Israeli military vehicles.[108] Israeli first responders reportedly recovered documents from killed militants' bodies with instructions to attack civilians, including elementary schools and a youth center, to "kill as many people as possible", and to take hostages for use in future negotiations.[121][87][122][123] Some of the militants wore body cameras to record the acts, presumably for propaganda purposes.[124]

    According to news reports, Hamas militants were taking Captagon—a highly addictive stimulant made in Syria and reportedly used by terrorist organization throughout the Middle East—during the attacks.[125][126][127][128]

    The morning of the attack, an Israeli military spokesman said that the militants from Gaza had entered Israel through at least seven locations[113] and invaded four small rural Israeli communities, the border city of Sderot, and two military bases from both land and sea.[114] Israeli media reported that seven communities came under Hamas control, including Nahal Oz, Kfar Aza, Magen, Be'eri, and Sufa.[129] The Erez Crossing was reported to have come under Hamas control, enabling militants to enter Israel from Gaza.[107] Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said there were 21 active high-confrontation locations in southern Israel.[130]

    The New York Times reported that an Israeli intelligence document prepared weeks after the attack found that Hamas had breached the border fence in over 30 separate locations.[131]

    Starting at 6.30 a.m. the same day, a massacre unfolded at an outdoor music festival near Re'im, resulting in at least 360 dead and many others missing. Witnesses recounted militants on motorcycles opening fire on fleeing participants, who were already dispersing due to rocket fire that had wounded some attendees; some were also taken hostage.[132][133][134] Militants killed civilians at Nir Oz,[111][135] Be'eri, and Netiv HaAsara, where they took hostages[136][137] and set fire to homes,[138] as well as in kibbutzim around the Gaza Strip.[138] Around 50 civilians were killed in the Kfar Aza massacre, 108 in the Be'eri massacre, and 15 people in the Netiv HaAsara massacre.[139][140] Militants killed 16 or 17 Thai and Nepalese employees during the Kibbutz Alumim massacre.[141][142]

    Other militants carried out an amphibious landing in Zikim.[108][143] Palestinian sources claim that the local Israeli army base was stormed.[144] The IDF said it had killed two attackers on the beach and destroyed four vessels, including two rubber boats. Militants also attacked a military base outside Nahal Oz, leaving at least 18 dead and taking seven hostage.[145][146] An IDF fire investigation found that the militants had "ignited substances... that contain toxic gasses which can cause suffocation within minutes, or even less" both at the base and in civilian locations.[146]

    Re'im music festival massacre

     
    Militant abducting a man during the Re'im music festival massacre that left at least 360 people dead and others taken hostage

    As part of the Hamas-led attack, 364 civilians were killed and many more wounded at the Supernova Sukkot Gathering, an open-air music festival celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot near kibbutz Re'im. At least 40 hostages were also taken.[147][148][149][150][151] This mass killing had the largest number of casualties out of a number of massacres targeting Israeli civilians in settlements adjacent to Gaza that were part of the 7 October invasion, alongside those at the settlements of Netiv HaAsara, Be'eri, Kfar Aza, Nir Oz, and Holit.[152]

    At 6:30 am, around sunrise, rockets were noticed in the sky. Around 7:00 am, a siren warned of an incoming rocket attack, prompting festival-goers to flee.[153] Subsequently, armed militants, dressed in military attire and using motorcycles, trucks and powered paragliders, surrounded the festival grounds and indiscriminately fired on people attempting to escape. Attendees seeking refuge nearby, in bomb shelters, bushes, and orchards, were killed while in hiding. Those who reached the road and parking lot were trapped in a traffic jam as militants fired at vehicles. The militants executed some wounded people at point-blank range as they crouched on the ground.[154][155]

    The details of the hostages' whereabouts and conditions are not publicly known.[150][151][156] The massacre at the festival has been described as the largest terror attack in Israel's history[157][158][155] and the worst Israeli civilian massacre ever.[159]

     
    Child's bedroom, Kfar Aza, after 7 October Hamas Attacks

    Kfar Aza massacre

    During the Hamas-led attack, around 70 Hamas militants attacked Kfar Aza, a kibbutz about 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) from the border with the Gaza Strip, massacring residents and abducting several hostages.

    The kibbutz had more than 700 residents, and it took the IDF two days to wrest back full control of it.[160][161] While the exact number of Israelis killed is unknown, as of 15 October, 52 were listed as dead and another 20 or more were missing.[162][163]

    Be'eri massacre

     
    Bodies of militants and houses destroyed after the Be'eri massacre

    On the morning of the attack, around 70 Hamas militants[164][165] carried out a massacre at Be'eri, an Israeli kibbutz near the Gaza Strip. At least 130 people were killed in the attack,[138] including women (such as peace activist Vivian Silver),[166] children, and infants,[167] claiming the lives of 10% of the community's residents. Dozens of homes were also burned down.[168] Several newspapers called the massacre an act of terrorism; some compared the brutality of the atrocities to that of ISIS.[169][170][171][172] Hostages were taken, leading to a standoff with the IDF.[173][174][175] According to survivors, there were also deaths from friendly fire; an Israeli tank fired on a house known to contain around 40 Hamas fighters and 14 hostages, among them two children, killing all hostages in the house but one.[176]

    Moshav Yakhini

    A squad of Hamas militants that arrived in a van attacked the moshav of Yakhini.[177][178][179] There were seven casualties in the moshav,[177][180][181] including a border police officer.[182][183] An IDF major in the Maglan unit was also injured.[184] The community leader's was on holiday in Thailand at the time, and remotely directed the moshav's 18-person protection team's response.[177] YAMAM and Sayeret Matkal IDF units eventually arrived and killed all the attackers.[177]

    Ein HaShlosha kibbutz

    Approximately 90 militants infiltrated kibbutz Ein HaShlosha, killing four civilians, looting, shooting, and burning houses.[185][186] An 80-year-old Argentinian woman died after her home was set on fire and she was unable to escape.[187] A standoff between the attackers and the residents' security team lasted six hours.[188] The leader of the security team, who was in his sixties, was killed in the firefight.[188] A 63-year-old grandmother was also among those killed in the attack.[189] A 39-year-old Israeli-Chilean woman was shot eight times.[190]

    Thirty survivors were discovered in the kibbutz three days after the massacre,[191] 14 of whom were Thai nationals.[192]

    Psyduck music festival massacre

    Psyduck was a small trance music festival that took place in the open fields near kibbutz Nir Oz, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the border of Gaza. The event drew around 100 participants. Hamas militants attacked the festival, killing 17 Israelis. Some were fatally shot at the festival site, while others were killed as they attempted to escape to nearby kibbutzim. Most survivors hid under small bushes until Israel Defense Forces rescued them a few hours later.[138]

    Attack on Re'im military base

    At 10 a.m., less than five hours after the attacks began, fighting was reported at Re'im military base, headquarters of the Gaza Division.[193][194] It was later reported that Hamas took control of the base and took several Israeli soldiers captive[193] before the IDF regained control later in the day.[195][196] The base was reportedly the location of IDF drone and surveillance operations. Hamas reportedly posted video of dead Israeli soldiers it had killed at the base.[197]

    Attack on kibbutz Nir Am

    Nir Am was attacked but no residents were harmed. Inbal Rabin-Lieberman, the 25-year-old security coordinator, alongside her uncle Ami, led a guard detail that killed multiple militants attempting to infiltrate a nearby chicken farm. They successfully deterred the rest of the invading militants from entering the community.[198][199][200]

    Attack on Ofakim

    The town of Ofakim was the furtherest point reached by the initial intense attacks on 7 October. A large proportion of the population of the town is working-class Jews of North African descent.[201] Ofakim was one of the first locations where a "hostages situation" was reported.[202] The militants targeted the parts of the town where the housing was older and did not have individual bomb shelters in every home, locals tāpirie that the invaders has shot people who were trying to get to communal shelters.[203]

    Rahat incursion

    A number of Qassam Brigades militants infiltrated the Bedouin city of Rahat, north-east of Ofakim and 30 kilometres from Gaza, representing the furthest extent of the incursions by Palestinian militant groups on 7 October. Over a month after the initial attack, two militants were arrested by Israeli police.[204]

    Failed plans

    A Hamas group carried intelligence information and maps guiding it to the border of the West Bank.[205] Shikma Prison was among Hamas's targets, but the group that headed there with the aim to free Palestinian inmates could not find it.[206]

    Hostages taken

    Soon after the start of the Hamas operation, there were reports that many civilians and soldiers had been taken as captives back to the Gaza Strip. Later in the day Hamas announced it had captured enough Israeli soldiers to force a prisoner swap,[207] and Israel confirmed hostages had been taken.[208]

    In Be'eri, up to 50 people were taken hostage; after an 18-hour standoff between militants and IDF forces, they were freed.[209] Hostages were also reported taken in Ofakim, where policemen led by Chief Superintendent Jayar Davidov engaged Palestinian militants in a shootout;[when?] Davidov and three of his men were killed, and the IDF later rescued two Israeli hostages in the suburb of Urim.[209] There were reports of militants killing and stealing family pets.[210]

    Hamas took many hostages back to Gaza. On 16 October, they said they were holding 250 hostages[211] and that it had done so to force Israel to release its Palestinian prisoners.[212] In addition to hostages with only Israeli citizenship, almost half of the hostages were foreign nationals or held multiple citizenships.[213] Some hostages were Negev Bedouins.[214] Some of the hostages, including three members of the Bibas family, were subsequently handed over to other militant groups. Palestinian Islamic Jihad ended up holding at least 30 of the hostages, but it is unclear whether they or Hamas originally kidnapped them.

    According to Ariel Merari, the raiders "were ordered to kidnap as many [people] as possible... [and] they intentionally kidnapped a populace that is sensitive from the aspect of Israeli public opinion".[215] Merari doubts that Hamas will agree to releasing all of the hostages in "one go" regardless of how many of its prisoners are released, since the hostages are its only guarantee against complete destruction at Israel's hands.[215] He believes Hamas will try to force a ceasefire and protract the release for weeks or months, until an Israeli offensive is no longer seen as viable.[215]

    Contrasting stories about the event

    The attacks on 7 October included both civilian and military targets. The film Bearing Witness depicts civilian and military casualties. Hamas's propaganda videos posted to Al-Qassam Brigades' Telegram channel and website depict the operation as primarily, or solely, focused on the destruction of the border fence and other military targets.[216] In the months leading up to 7 October, Al-Qassam posted video of themselves and some of their allies training for the attacks against military and ambiguous targets.[217]

    Israeli counterattack

    After the initial breach of the Gaza perimeter by Palestinian militants, it took hours for the Israeli military to respond by sending troops to counterattack.[218] The first helicopters sent to support the military were launched from the north of Israel, and arrived in Gaza an hour after fighting began.[219] Israel had difficulty determining which outposts and settlements were occupied, and distinguishing between Palestinian militants and the soldiers and civilians on the ground.[219]

    Friendly fire and use of the Hannibal Directive

    According to a December 2023 Ynet article, there was also an "immense and complex quantity" of friendly-fire incidents during the 7 October attack.[29][30] In January 2024, an investigation by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth concluded that the IDF had in practice applied the Hannibal Directive, ordering all combat units to stop "at all costs" any attempt by Hamas militants to return to Gaza, even if there were hostages with them.[220][32][31] The directive was first employed at 7:18 AM at the Erez border crossing to prevent soldiers stationed there from being taken captive. At 10:32 AM, an order was issued to all battalions in the area to fire mortars in the direction of Gaza. Documents obtained by Haaretz and the testimonies of soldiers show that use of the Hannibal Directive was "widespread" after an order was issued to the Gaza Division at 11:22 AM that "Not a single vehicle can return to Gaza." At 2:00 PM, all units were instructed not to leave border communities or chase anyone into Gaza, as the border was under heavy, indiscriminate fire. At 6:40 PM, the army launched artillery raids at the border area "very close" to Kibbutz Be'eri and Kfar Azza.[221] It is unclear how many hostages were killed by friendly fire as a result of the order.[32][31] According to Yedioth Ahronoth, around 70 burnt-out vehicles on roads leading to Gaza had been fired on by helicopters or tanks, killing all occupants in at least some cases.[32][31]

    Helicopter crews initially poured down fire at a tremendous rate, attacking about 300 targets in four hours. Later, the crews began to slow their attacks and carefully select targets.[219] According to Haaretz journalist Josh Breiner, a police source said that a police investigation found that an IDF helicopter that had fired on Hamas militants "apparently also hit some festival participants" in the Re'im music festival massacre.[222] The Israeli police denied Haaretz's report.[223] In the aftermath of the attack, Israel buried hundreds of burned cars that were present at the scene of the attacks "To preserve the sanctity of those murdered by Hamas."[224] The Electronic Intifada called this "a worrying development which amounts to a state-sanctioned coverup of what could potentially be some of the most important forensic evidence from 7 October."[225] Subsequent investigation has determined that militants had been instructed not to run so that the air force would think they were Israelis.[219] This deception worked for some time, but pilots began to realize the problem and ignore their restrictions. By around 9 a.m., amid the chaos and confusion, some helicopters started laying down fire without prior authorization.[219]

    Locations of attacks

    Attack Location Israelis and foreign nationals Physical destruction Militants from Gaza start time
    [A]
    end date and time
    [B]
    References
    name pop.[C] total killed civilian [D] military [E] hostages number deaths POWs
    7 October attacks on Israel Gaza Envelope and Southern Israel[F] total pop. = total = 1,139 total = total = total = 200+ Gaza–Israel barrier + military bases + housing at kibbutzim + cars total ≈ 3000 [G] total ≈ 1000 [H] total = ? 06:30 [16][229]
    Attack on Erez crossing   Erez crossing crossing allegedly made unusable. [230][231][232][230]
    Battle of Sderot   Police station in Sderot computer server and connections[I] [116][117][118]
    Battle of Sderot   town of Sderot 33,002 15+ [233]
    Re'im music festival massacre   Public event near Re'im ~3500 on the day [J] 357+ 40 cars [236][237][238]
    Battle of Re'im Re'im military base[K] 422 (nearby settlement) 10:00 [193][194][239]
    Be'eri massacre   Kibbutz Be'eri 1,071 117+ nearby surveillance tower[240] [241]
    Nahal Oz attack (at the military base)   IDF: Nahal Oz lookout base 24+ [L] 15+ none 15+ 7+ Base set on fire. [242]
    Nahal Oz attack (at the Kibbutz)   Kibbutz Nahal Oz 479 80+ 12+ 46+ 20+ missing [243]
    Kfar Aza massacre   Kfar Aza 787 52+ nearby weapons tower destroyed with a drone[240] [244][245]
    Battle of Zikim   Bahad 4 7[M] [247][246]
    Zikim Beach massacre   Zikim beach 918 35+ 19 [248][249]
    Nir Oz massacre   Nir Oz 380 27+ [N] 09:45[O] [250]
    Psyduck massacre a wadi between Nir Oz and Nirim ~100[P] 17 [138][138]
    Nirim attack   Kibbutz Nirim 416 5+ [251][252]
    Netiv HaAsara massacre   Netiv HaAsara 21+ [253][254]
    Alumim massacre   Alumim 531 19+ [255][256]
    Kissufim massacre   Kissufim 294 16+ [257][258]
    Holit massacre   Kibbutz Holit 210 13+ [259]
    Ein HaShlosha attack   Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha 353 5+ [260]
    Nir Yitzhak attack   Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak 633 5+ [260]
    Defence of Nir Am   Kibbutz Nir Am 726 none none none none [261]

    Table Footnotes:

    1. ^ all on 2023-10-07
    2. ^ When Israeli forces regained control of the location.
    3. ^ Population data from 2022 unless otherwise stated.[226][227]
    4. ^ Most of the civilian areas on the Israeli side of the Gaza border had lightly armed volunteer security teams.[228]
    5. ^ Includes on duty police, military, and other professional armed security forces. Off duty IDF reservists were counted as civilians, so some available lists of names include more people with military ranks than the official number of military deaths.[citation needed]
    6. ^ Border checkpoints + military bases + kibbutzim + towns + music festivals.
    7. ^ [citation needed]
    8. ^ [citation needed]
    9. ^ The militants destroyed the computer system and communications in the Sderot police station, which disabled emergency services communications for the region.[116][117][118]
    10. ^ Attendance at the festival was reported to be 3,500 but figures vary.[234] After the attack, relatives searching for missing loved ones said more than one thousand were at the event at the time of the attack.[235] Some festival attendees estimated 3,000–4,000 people.[235] An emergency medic who responded to the massacre at the festival placed attendance at 3,000.[150]
    11. ^ Headquarters of the Gaza Division.[193]
    12. ^ There were at least two additional soldiers on duty that day who survived.[242]
    13. ^ Six officers and one recruit were killed in the fighting before the militants withdrew.[246]
    14. ^ including the Bibas family
    15. ^ Rockets were hard at 6:30am and the militants entered the Bibas home at 9:45am [1]
    16. ^ Approximately 100 people took part in the event.[138]

    Casualties

    Gender percentage of 7 October deaths
    Group Source % female Reference
    Total AOAV[262] 26.6% [k]
    Civilians Walla/TOI 36% [l]
    Civilians AOAV 41% [m]
    Military AOAV 11% [n]
    Other security forces AOAV 15% [o]

    The latest figure on total number killed during the attack, based on social security data, is 1,175,[18] of whom 379 were from Israeli security forces and 796 were civilians (725 Israeli and 71 foreign).[18] 26.6% of those killed were female.[262] Initially up to 1,400 people were reported killed; on 10 November this was revised to 1,200,[264] before being revised further in December. The casualties included 36 children; the youngest person killed was 10 months old, and 25 were people over age 80.[18][263] The attack is considered the bloodiest day in Israel's history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust.[52][53]

    Footage of Israeli elite unit clearing after the Re'im music festival massacre

    The attack left over 3,400 wounded,[19] and 247 soldiers and civilians were taken hostage.[20] On 19 October, Israeli officials reported an additional 100 to 200 missing.[265] By July 2024, the number of missing was down to 1.[21] Israeli casualties include about 70 Arab Israelis, predominantly from Negev Bedouin communities.[266][267][268][269] The attack affected a province with a population of 4,000,000 Israelis, while the war displaced 300,000 Israelis.[270]

    On 7 October, over 100 civilians were killed in the Be'eri massacre, including women and children, and over 270 people were killed at a music festival in Re'im.[132] As of 10 October, over 100 people had been reported killed in the Kfar Aza massacre, with the total death toll unknown.[271] Nine people were fatally shot at a bus shelter in Sderot.[113] At least four people were reported killed in Kuseife.[107] At least 400 wounded were treated in Ashkelon,[272][111] while 280 others were reported in Beer Sheva, 60 of whom were in serious condition.[113] In the north, injuries from rocket attacks were reported in Tel Aviv.[273] At least 49 Israeli children and adolescents under the age of 19 were killed in the attack.[274]

    Former Hapoel Tel Aviv F.C. striker Lior Asulin was among those killed in the Re'im music festival massacre.[275] The head of the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council, Ofir Libstein, was killed in an exchange of fire with the militants.[276] The police commander of Rahat, Jayar Davidov, was also killed.[277] The IDF confirmed that 247 of its soldiers had been killed.[278] Among those confirmed dead were Colonel Yonatan Steinberg, the commander of the Nahal Brigade, who was killed near Kerem Shalom; Colonel Roi Levy, commander of the Multidimensional "Ghost" unit, who was killed near kibbutz Re'im;[279][11] and Lieutenant Colonel Eli Ginsberg, commander of the LOTAR Counter-terrorism Unit School.[280] The Druze deputy commander of the 300th "Baram" Regional Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Alim Abdallah, was killed in action along with two other soldiers while responding to an infiltration from southern Lebanon on 9 October.[281] Israeli peace activist Hayim Katsman was killed in Holit. Peace activist Vivian Silver, originally thought to be taken hostage,[282] was later confirmed to have been killed during the attack on Be'eri.[283] Israel Hayom photographer Yaniv Zohar was killed in Nahal Oz.[284]

    The great number and geographical spread of the victims made locating all of their remains difficult. Several weeks after the massacre, once conventional search techniques had been exhausted, the IDF approached the Israel Nature and Parks Authority for help in tracking the flight paths of vultures, which resulted in the discovery of at least five more bodies.[285] The IDF also enlisted the aid of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority to help recover remains that were so badly burned as to be indistinguishable from the surrounding rubble; the remains of at least ten victims have been recovered this way.[286][287]

    Hamas took at least 247 Israelis hostage and transported them to Gaza.[20] On 8 October, Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it was holding at least 30 captives.[288] At least four people were reportedly taken from Kfar Aza.[289] Videos from Gaza appeared to show captured people, with Gazan residents cheering trucks carrying dead bodies.[114] Four captives were later reported to have been killed in Be'eri,[290] while Hamas said that an IDF airstrike on Gaza on 9 October killed four captives.[291] Yedioth Ahronoth photographer Roy Edan was reported missing and likely captured alongside his child in Kfar Aza. His wife was killed and two of their children were able to hide in a closet until rescued.[292] Edan's body was identified ten days later as one of the casualties of the Kfar Aza massacre.[293] American-Israeli Hersh Goldberg-Polin was one of the kidnapped. On 11 October, Hamas's Qassam Brigades released a video appearing to show the release of three hostages, a woman and two children, in an open area near a fence. Israel dismissed the video as "theatrics".[294] According to Ynet, there were also casualties from friendly fire on 7 October which the IDF believed "it would not be morally sound to investigate [...] due to the immense and complex quantity of them that took place in the kibbutzim and southern Israeli communities due to the challenging situations the soldiers were in at the time."[29]

    Identification of remains

     
    According to Chen Kugel, head of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, hundreds of bodies arrived at the institute in a state "beyond recognition"

    According to Chen Kugel, head of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, hundreds of bodies arrived at the institute in a state "beyond recognition".[295] Pathologists were required to process, among others, bone fragments recovered from fires; a blood-soaked baby mattress; victims who were tied, then executed; and two victims who were tied, then incinerated alive.[295]

    With hundreds missing and bodies burned beyond recognition, Israeli authorities assembled recovery teams from across society. This included archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, who identified and removed ancient remains in attempts to sift through ash and rubble for bone fragments other forensic teams overlooked.[296]

    The sheer number of casualties overwhelmed authorities. Bodies were brought chaotically to the Shura IDF base and Abu Kabir forensic institute. The different military, police, and civilian teams caused confusion. Archeologists systematically searched rooms, dividing them into grids and carefully extracting bone shards. At one house, the archeology team found a bloodstain under ash that it determined was the outline of a body, later identified by DNA analysis as Meni Godard.[296]

    Revision of casualty numbers

    On 10 November, Israel revised its casualty count from 1,400 to 1,200 after realizing that some bodies that were badly burned[297] were those of Hamas fighters.[298][264] This included 859 civilians,[299] 283 soldiers,[300][301] 58 policemen, and 10 Shin Bet members.[13]

    At the end of May 2024, using social security data, this was further revised to 1,175: 725 Israeli civilians (including 36 children), 71 foreign nationals, and 379 security forces.[18] One person is classed as missing.[21]

    Operation Swords of Iron

    The IDF launched Operation Swords of Iron in Gaza and declared a state of emergency for areas within 80 kilometers (50 mi) of the Gaza border. The IDF additionally reported that it had begun targeted actions in Gaza under what it called Operation Swords of Iron (or Iron Swords) (Hebrew: מבצע חרבות ברזל, romanizedMivtsá charvót barzél).[302][303][60][107]

    In a televised broadcast, Netanyahu said: "We are at war."[114] He also said that the IDF would reinforce its border deployments to deter others from "making the mistake of joining this war".[304] In a later address, he threatened to "turn Gaza into a deserted island" and urged its residents to "leave now".[46] Israel's Security Cabinet voted to undertake a series of actions to bring about the "destruction of the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad", according to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office.[305] The Israel Electric Corporation, which supplies up to 80% of Gaza's electricity, cut off power to the area.[108] As a result, Gaza's power supply was reduced from 120 MW to 20 MW, forcing it to rely on power plants paid for by the Palestinian Authority.

    Reactions

    Palestinian response

    Hamas

    Khaled Mashal lauded the Hamas attack, calling it legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation. He said, "We know very well the consequences of our operation on Oct. 7", emphasizing that Palestinian lives must be sacrificed in the quest for liberation.[306]

    Khalil al-Hayya, a senior member of Hamas, said the action was necessary to "change the entire equation and not just have a clash... We succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue back on the table, and now no one in the region is experiencing calm."[307]

    Taher El-Nounou, a Hamas media adviser, said that he hoped "that the state of war with Israel will become permanent on all the borders, and that the Arab world will stand with [Hamas]".[307]

    Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said in an interview: "We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do this again and again. The Al-Aqsa Flood is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth. Because we have the determination...to fight."[308] He emphasized Hamas's willingness to "pay a price", concluding with a call for the elimination of Israel: "We must remove that country because it constitutes a security, military and political catastrophe to the Arab and Islamic nations".[309] These comments came after an incident where Hamad abruptly left a BBC interview when asked about Hamas's killing of civilians in Israel on 7 October.[308]

    Hamas denied killing any children in the attack.[310] Its official announcement referring to the event rejected the "falsehood of the fabricated allegations" promoted by some Western media outlets, which unprofessionally adopt the "Zionist narrative full of lies and slander against our Palestinian people and their resistance, the latest of which was the claim of killing children, beheading them, and targeting civilians".[310] When asked about the Re'im music festival massacre, where 260 civilians were murdered, Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk replied that it was a "coincidence", and that the attackers may have thought these were soldiers "resting".[311][312]

    In January 2024, Hamas released a report titled "Our Narrative", which accepted "some faults" but continued to deny having intentionally targeted civilians, blamed Israel for deaths, and justified the attacks as "a necessary step and a normal response to confront all Israeli conspiracies against the Palestinian people".[313]

    Palestinian Authority

    On the eve of the Hamas attack at the emergency meeting in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian people had the right to defend themselves against the terror of settlers and occupation troops.[314] According to Palestinian government agency WAFA, Abbas also ordered the government and relevant authorities to immediately send all available resources to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza under Israeli aggression.[315] On 16 October, he declared that "Hamas' actions don't represent the Palestinians".[316][317] He has yet to condemn the 7 October massacre as of February 2024.[318]

    On October 30, Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian official, said the attacks were an act of resistance launched against the IDF.[319]

    On May 16, 2024, Mahmoud Abbas said that Hamas's unilateral military action on October 7 provided Israel with justification for attacks in the Gaza Strip. He emphasized opposition to harming civilians. In response, Hamas expressed regret for the remarks, asserting that the attack elevated the Palestinian cause and yielded strategic gains.[320]

    Palestinian public opinion

    In November 2023, as a result of Israeli actions in Gaza following the 7 October attacks, Hamas's popularity among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank increased significantly.[321] In a survey conducted on 14 November by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD), a research, consulting and development firm based in Ramallah,[322] Palestinians showed overwhelming support for the attack. It said, "Palestinians living in the West Bank overwhelmingly answered that they supported the attack to either an extreme or 'somewhat' extent (83.1%)."[323][324][325]

    In Gaza, Palestinians exhibited lesser consensus, with only 63.6% "extremely" or "somewhat" supporting the attack. 14.4% answered they neither opposed or supported the attack, and 20.9% opposed the attack to some degree.[323][324][325]

    Only 10% of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank said they believed Hamas committed war crimes during the attack on Israel, and a large majority of Palestinians said they had not seen any videos showing Hamas atrocities in Israel.

    Israeli response

     
    Posters calling for the return of Israeli hostages in Gaza
     
    The line in black represents the IDF's boundary at Wadi Gaza for evacuation of the northern Gaza Strip

    Israel said that Hamas "made a grave mistake" in launching its attack and pledged that "Israel will win".[113] The IDF declared a "state of readiness for war",[107] adding that reservists were to be deployed not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank and along the borders with Lebanon and Syria.[326] Residents in areas near Gaza were asked to stay inside, while civilians in southern and central Israel were "required to stay next to shelters".[108] Roads around Gaza were closed by the IDF.[113] Tel Aviv's streets were also locked down.[108]

    After the attack, Israel declared a heightened state of preparedness for potential conflict.[327] The IDF declared a state of readiness for war, and Netanyahu convened an emergency gathering of security authorities. Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai announced that a "state of war" existed, following what he called "a massive attack from the Gaza Strip".[328] He also announced the closure of all of southern Israel to "civilian movement" and the Yamam counterterrorism unit's deployment to the area.[130] The IDF's chief spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said four divisions were deployed to the area, augmenting 31 preexisting battalions.[113]

    Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the country was facing "a very difficult moment", and offered strength and encouragement to the IDF, other security forces, rescue services, and residents who were under attack.[111]

    Ben Gurion Airport and Ramon Airport remained operational, but multiple airlines canceled flights to and from Israel.[329] Israel Railways suspended service in parts of the country and replaced some routes with temporary bus routes,[330][331] and cruise ships removed the ports of Ashdod and Haifa from their itineraries.[332]

    Capture and interrogation of militants

    Hamas Nukhba member recounting the events of the Kfar Aza massacre during interrogation, in a video released by the IDF

    Following the attack, more than 600 militants were captured in Israel. Israel has claimed that the interrogation of the suspects revealed significant insights into the group's strategies, ideologies, and operational methods that played a crucial role in its military response and in shaping the global understanding of the conflict.[333][334][335] Israel said it did not use physical coercion. Israel's aim was support its narrative and counter Hamas narratives.[335]

    However, a number of sources have questioned if Israel forced Palestinians to make confessions. Some of the militants in the videos appear to be bloodied and wincing in pain.[336] On November 14, AP News analyzed that a confession video Israel released showed the captured militant was speaking "clearly under duress".[337] Palestinians detainees released after October 7 have reported that Israeli authorities order them to make statements, beat them severely, and sometimes ask them to make statements with a gun pointed to their face.[338][339]

    Israeli Arabs

     
    Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the city of Rahat with the heads of the Bedouin community and the families of kidnapped and murdered Bedouins, 26 October 2023

    Arab Israeli politicians, including the United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas and Arab Knesset member Ayman Odeh, condemned the Hamas-led attack on Israel.[340][341] Israel's Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli said, "the Arab population has shown much solidarity and responsibility, and this is especially true for the Bedouin population in the Negev."[340]

    International

     
    Celebrations in Iran, 7 October 2023

    At least 44 nations denounced Hamas and explicitly condemned its conduct as terrorism, including a joint statement by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. In contrast, Arab and Muslim countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Iran and Iraq blamed Israel's policy of occupying the Palestinians for the attack. The UAE, Bahrain, and China have amended their initial declarations to expressly denounce the killing and abduction of Israeli civilians.[49][50][51] According to a poll conducted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy between 14 November and 6 December 2023, 95% of Saudis did not believe that Hamas had killed civilians in its attack on Israel.[342]

    Over 680 legal experts and 128 human rights experts from Israel and around the world have signed an appeal for the immediate release of all hostages kidnapped by Hamas, and for the end of the "vicious and inhumane capture, violence, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of women and girls, children and infants." According to the appeal, "the abductees are defined according to international law as victims of enforced disappearance... [which makes these acts] blatant violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity."[343]

    The United Nations, particularly the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), faced criticism for failing to condemn Hamas's actions against women and failing to voice disapproval of the mass rape of Israeli women and girls.[344][345]

    The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to amend the US immigration code and ban people associated with Hamas, PIJ, and other perpetrators of the 7 October attacks from seeking immigration-related relief or protections in the United States.[346][347]

    After the attacks, the Shoah Foundation said it had gathered over 100 video testimonies of those who experienced the attacks to add them to the collection of "Holocaust survivor and witness testimony."[348] Shoah Foundation founder Steven Spielberg said of the attacks, "I never imagined I would see such unspeakable barbarity against Jews in my lifetime" and that the Shoah Foundation project would ensure "that their stories would be recorded and shared in the effort to preserve history and to work toward a world without antisemitism or hate of any kind."[349]

    Reported atrocities

    Sexual violence

    Israeli women and girls were reportedly raped, assaulted, and mutilated by Hamas militants during the incursion, an allegation Hamas denies.[43][350][351][352][353] In the months following the attacks, The Wall Street Journal reported on 21 December, there was "mounting evidence of sexual violence, based on survivor accounts, first responders and witnesses."[354] These acts were denounced as gender-based violence, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, aligning with the International Criminal Court's recognition of sexual violence as such.[355][356][357]

    Witnesses described the perpetrators using shovels,[358] beheading victims, engaged in rapes, and even playing with severed body parts.[357] The BBC reported that "Videos of naked and bloodied women filmed by Hamas on the day of the attack, and photographs of bodies taken at the sites afterwards, suggest that women were sexually targeted by their attackers."[359] Forensic examinations cited by IDF Captain (Res.) Maayan, who is also a dentist, claimed that there were signs of sexual abuse, including mutilations, broken limbs, and broken pelvises.[360][361] This evidence has prompted scholars and legal experts to conduct investigations, amassing substantial evidence pointing to crimes against humanity and war crimes.[362][357][363][364] Hamas was accused of employing rape as a weapon of war.[365][366] Some of the released hostages also shared testimonies of sexual violence during their time in Gaza.[350] Israel accused international women's rights and human rights groups of downplaying the assaults.[367]

    Some witness testimony was subsequently discredited, including the alleged stabbing of a pregnant woman and her fetus.[368][369][370]

    A two-month New York Times investigation by Jeffrey Gettleman, Anat Schwartz, and Adam Sella, released in late December 2023, reported finding at least seven locations where sexual assaults and mutilations of Israeli women and girls were carried out. It concluded that these were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence during the 7 October massacres. The probe was said to have been based on video footage, photographs, GPS data from mobile phones, and interviews with more than 150 people.[43] According to reporting by The Intercept, the New York Times investigation has been criticized, both externally and internally by other employees, for apparent discrepancies in witness accounts and lax evidentiary standards.[371] On December 30, The Daily Telegraph wrote: "First responders to massacre saw raped and abused bodies, but the rapidity of events—and cultural taboos—may leave the truth uncovered".[372] Al-Jazeera concluded that the "allegations of widespread and systematic rape", allegations it said "were used repeatedly by politicians in Israel and the West to justify the ferocity of the subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip", were false.[373] On March 25, 2024, The New York Times reported that new video had surfaced, contradicting the account of an Israeli military paramedic previously interviewed by the Times that two teenagers murdered in Be'eri had also been sexually assaulted.[374]

    Pramila Patten, the UN's special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, reported in March 2024 that there were "reasonable grounds" to believe sexual assaults including rape and gang rape took place in multiple locations during the 7 October attacks. Patten also reported receiving "clear and convincing information" that some of the hostages held by Hamas had suffered rape and sexualized torture and that there were "reasonable grounds" to believe such abuses were "ongoing".[375] But Patten's report did not determine that the sexual violence was systematic in nature and remained agnostic on its scope. Patten was also unable to find some evidence that Israeli politicians insisted existed, including video evidence of rape.[376]

    On 12 April 2024, the European Union sanctioned military and special forces wings of Hamas and the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad due to their responsibility for the alleged sexual violence on 7 October. An asset freeze and travel ban were imposed on the Qassam and Al-Quds Brigades and the Nukhba Force.[377] The EU said the groups' fighters "committed widespread sexual and gender-based violence in a systematic manner, using it as a weapon of war."[378][379]

    Torture and mutilation

     
    Dead bodies after the Be'eri massacre

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described photos that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government privately showed him: "a baby, an infant, riddled with bullets. Soldiers beheaded. Young people burned alive. I could go on, but it's simply depravity in the worst imaginable way."[380] Israeli forces in Kfar Aza and Be'eri[381] reported that they found bodies of victims mutilated. One IDF commander falsely told an I24NEWS reporter that 40 babies had been killed, out of what one estimate described as at least 100 civilian victims;[382][271][383][384][385][386] in fact, only three babies are known to have died as a result of the attack, one from a bullet, and one in a hospital shortly after birth.[387]

     
    Abandoned and damaged cars after the Re'im music festival massacre

    ZAKA volunteers acting as first responders spread other false reports of this type.[387][388] In one, a ZAKA volunteer said groups of children were found tied up and burned alive.[387] Other reported atrocities included sexual assaults, rapes, and mutilations; some victims were reportedly bound, and some victims' bodies desecrated.[387] Graeme Wood reported that the video footage retrieved from body cameras the attackers wore showed several victims who "in the beginning of the footage... are alive, [and] by the end they're dead. Sometimes, in fact frequently, after their death their bodies are still being desecrated."[389] Other videos show attackers shooting at children, executing men in civilian clothing, throwing grenades into civilian shelters, and an attempted decapitation.[390][391][392]

    First response personnel recovering the bodies reported being extremely distressed by the atrocities they witnessed, and said they placed the bodies of Hamas militants in body bags marked with an "X" and removed them with a bulldozer.[393]

    Israeli security agencies released videos that the Times of Israel described as apparent interrogations of Hamas attackers, in which the subjects said they were ordered to kill, behead, cut off limbs and rape.[394] A former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, part of the team identifying bodies, said there were many instances of rape and torture, and an Israeli reserve warrant officer said that forensic exams had discovered multiple cases of rape, though neither provided forensic evidence to support the claims.[395] CNN has interviewed several Israelis who witnessed the aftermath of the attack, who reported visible signs of rape and excessive violence on the bodies of women and girls from several sites.[396]

    A Ha'aretz investigation into the claims of mutilation and torture found that "Members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as other Gazans who entered Israel, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity." Regarding "testimonies about Hamas' atrocities on October 7", Ha'aretz found that "Most are supported by extensive evidence, but a few have been proved untrue, providing ammunition to deniers of the historic massacre." Ha'aretz found several cases where Israeli search and rescue units, the army, and politicians disseminated inaccurate information. An Israeli army officer claimed that babies had been hung on clotheslines; later investigations showed that exactly one infant was killed, alongside her father, and that the reports of groups of children being slaughtered and mutilated were false. A total of five children under age six were killed, and another 14 between ages 12 and 15 were killed in rocket attacks from Gaza. Most of the children were killed alongside family members. Ha'aretz reported that "Hamas terrorists did desecrate corpses during the massacre, especially the bodies of soldiers. There were also beheadings and cases of dismemberment" but that "there is no evidence that children from several families were murdered together, rendering inaccurate Netanyahu's remark to U.S. President Joe Biden that Hamas terrorists 'took dozens of children, tied them up, burned them and executed them.'"[387] ZAKA volunteers shared stories of atrocities, with one repeatedly describing 20 children having been bound and burned at a kibbutz; the same volunteer said a pregnant woman had her unborn baby cut from her womb and that he had found the woman next to a murdered child aged six or seven. But the list of dead does not correspond to the claims, and no children of that age were killed in the kibbutz; the kibbutz has denied that the story is related to the kibbutz.[387] Sara Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister's wife, sent U.S. first lady Jill Biden a letter claiming that a heavily pregnant woman was taken hostage to Gaza; the woman was identified as a Thai worker who had been taken hostage and later released. She was not pregnant and had not given birth.[387]

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also repeated some of the evidence given by the same ZAKA volunteer, describing a scene the volunteer said he found in Be'eri: "a young boy and girl, 6 and 8 years old, and their parents around the breakfast table. The father's eye gouged out in front of his kids. The mother's breast cut off, the girl's foot amputated, the boy's fingers cut off before they were executed."[397][398] Haaretz reported in December 2023 that "no children 6 or 7 or near those ages were killed on Be'eri".[387] The Intercept similarly said no one killed in Be'eri matched this account and expressed mystification that U.S. media kept citing ZAKA, even though their testimony was debunked in Israeli media.[399]

    On 20 October, a forensic analysis was presented to the media at Israel's National Center of Forensic Medicine that claimed to show evidence of victims burned alive with bound hands. The analysis suggested that one CT scan of charred remains showed an adult bound to a child at the time of death.[400][401] Many victims were described as having soot in their trachea, indicating that they burned to death.[402]

    Two or three decapitations of adults or military-age teenagers have been confirmed, one or two IDF soldiers (beheaded after death in combat) and a foreign worker.[403] Corproal Adir Tahar, age 19, from the Golani Brigade, was killed in combat by multiple grenades on 7 October. After his death, his head was removed and taken to the Gaza Strip.[403] His body was identified by DNA and buried incomplete.[403] The IDF tried to hide from his family that there was only an incomplete body to bury.[404] His head was found later in the Gaza Strip, inspiring speculation about why it had been taken there.[405]

    Unsubstantiated reports of beheaded children

    In the aftermath of the initial Hamas assault, witnesses from the Israeli soldiers, the Israeli Department Forces, and the first responder Israeli organization ZAKA said on French Israeli TV channel i24news that they had seen the bodies of beheaded infants at the site of the Kfar Aza massacre.[406][407][160] During Antony Blinken's visit to Israel, he said he was shown photos of the massacre by Hamas of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and specifically that he saw beheaded IDF soldiers.[408] U.S. President Biden later falsely claimed that he had seen photographic evidence of militants beheading children; the White House subsequently clarified that Biden was alluding to news reports of beheadings, which have not contained or referred to photographic evidence.[161] NBC News called reports of "40 beheaded babies" unverified allegations,[161] adding that they appeared "to have originated from Israeli soldiers and people affiliated with the Israel Defense Force" and that "an Israeli official told CNN the government had not confirmed claims of the beheadings".[161] The allegation mainly "stemmed from a viral Israeli news broadcast clip" and the main X / Twitter accounts propagating the claims were i24NEWS and Israel's official account, even though Israeli Defense spokesperson Doron Spielman told NBC News that he could not confirm i24NEWS's report.[161] As of 12 October, CNN had extensively reviewed online media content to verify Hamas-related atrocities but found no evidence to support claims of decapitated children.[409]

    An Israeli ZAKA volunteer reported on 14 October seeing children's bodies with severe injuries and burns; the volunteer said that some of the bodies appeared to have been decapitated, but the exact circumstances were not clear.[410]

    According to The Jerusalem Post, which reprinted an article from the Israeli website Themedialine.org (whose founder, Felice Friedson, was praised by The Jerusalem Post and is a contributor to it[411]), approximately 200 forensic pathologists and other experts—from Israel, Switzerland, New Zealand, the U.S. and elsewhere—reviewed evidence of the attack at the National Center of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir) in Tel Aviv.[412] Chen Kugel, head of the center, said that many bodies, including those of babies, were without heads. When asked whether the bodies had been decapitated, Kugel answered yes.[413] He added that it was difficult to determine whether the dead were decapitated before or after death, or whether their heads had been "cut off by knife or blown off by RPG".[412]

    On 24 October, Israeli authorities screened bodycam footage of Hamas atrocities for journalists, including "an attempt to decapitate someone who appeared to be still alive using a garden hoe",[414] as well as a still image of a decapitated IDF soldier.[415]

    On 4 December, Haaretz reported that "unverified stories [had been] disseminated by Israeli search and rescue groups, army officers and even Sara Netanyahu".[416][417] Haaretz journalists Nir Hasson and Liza Rozovsky related the chronology of the news items about "beheaded babies" and "hung babies" and concluded, "this story is false".[416] They quoted Ishay Coen, a journalist for the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Hashabbat, who admitted he made a mistake by unquestioningly accepting the IDF's claims.[416] "Why would an army officer invent such a horrifying story?", Hashabbat asked, adding, "I was wrong."[416] Haaretz also reported that some testimony came from reservist officers.[416] Haaretz further reported that "according to sources including Israel's National Insurance Institute, kibbutz leaders and the police", one baby was killed on 7 October, who was killed with her father in Kibbutz Be'eri.[416] Al-Jazeera reported that the claims of babies being beheaded and killed en masse were false.[373]

    Use of hostages as human shields

    During the October 7 assault, Human Rights Watch reported two instances where Palestinian militants used Israeli civilians as human shields. In Be'eri, fighters held civilians in a home and threatened to kill them if Israeli forces attacked. When the Israelis did fire, it led to the deaths of militants and hostages. In Nahal Oz, a fighter used 17-year-old Tomer Arava Eliaz to move between homes and potentially block attacks, and Tomer was later found dead. A purported "hostage detention plan" suggested using hostages as human shields, but its authenticity could not be verified by Human Rights Watch.[418]

    Allegations of genocide

    According to several international law and genocide studies experts, Hamas' assault amounted to genocide.[56][57][58] Legal and genocide experts have condemned the attack,[419][420] saying it represents a serious violation of international law. They argue that Hamas carried out these actions with the intent to destroy the Israeli national group.[58][57][421][56] Some commentators point to Hamas's founding charter, which advocates for the destruction of Israel, contains antisemitic language, and, according to certain researchers, implies a call for the genocide of Jews. This has led to suggestions that the 7 October attacks were an effort to fulfill this agenda.[422][423][424][425]

    See also

    Notes

    1. ^ a b c Israel has identified Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif as the key individuals in planning the attacks, the leadership abroad and the rest of the political wing were not directly involved.[426][427]
    2. ^ According to Israeli sources[16]
    3. ^ according to Israeli social security data[18]
    4. ^ 71 foreign nationals[18]
    5. ^ including 20 under 15[18]
    6. ^ It is unclear how many of them were killed by friendly fire or as a result of the Hannibal Directive. An Ynet article stated that there was an "immense and complex quantity" of friendly-fire incidents during the 7 October attack.[29][30][31][32]
    7. ^ This excludes the invading Palestinian militants who died in the subsequent fighting with Israeli armed personnel.
    8. ^ Although Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, most of the international community still regards Gaza as being occupied due to Israel's effective military control over the territory.[59][60]
    9. ^ Sources that say Hamas calls for Israel's destruction cite the 1988 Hamas charter, while sources that say Hamas has accepted the 1967 borders cite the 2017 Hamas charter, 2005 Palestinian Cairo Declaration and 2006 Palestinian Prisoners' Document.
    10. ^ The Washington Post said the Palestinians were trying to explode the device,[76] while Al-Jazeera said that a Palestinian Explosives Engineering Unit was trying to defuse the device.[77]
    11. ^ "Of the total of 1,004 victims whose gender is identified, 735 (73.4%) of these were male, and 278 (26.6%) female."[262]
    12. ^ "But the Walla news site has published data by age and gender for 756 of the murdered civilians for which information is available...two girls...11 female...162 women...59 women...69 women...seven women."[263] That totals 272 female killed out of 756 total civilians dead.
    13. ^ "Civilians has 217 male and 153 female killed.[262]
    14. ^ "Military has 298 male and 38 female killed.[262]
    15. ^ "Police and rescue" has 22 male and 4 female killed.[262]

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