(Haaretz) "Hamas Committed Documented Atrocities. But a Few False Stories Feed the Deniers"
Posted by Der on December 8, 2023, 11:19 am
Hamas Committed Documented Atrocities. But a Few False Stories Feed the Deniers
The extensive evidence of crimes against humanity committed by Hamas terrorists on October 7 should not be contaminated by unverified stories disseminated by Israeli search and rescue groups, army officers and even Sara Netanyahu
Nir HassonLiza Rozovsky
Dec 4, 2023
Warning: This article contains accounts that some readers might find disturbing.
Politicians, army officers, search-and-rescue volunteers and social-media activists have all provided testimonies about Hamas' atrocities on October 7. Most are supported by extensive evidence, but a few have been proved untrue, providing ammunition to deniers of the historic massacre.
Members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as other Gazans who entered Israel, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. They viciously murdered about 1,200 people, most of them unarmed civilians. They abducted about 240 people – both civilians and soldiers – including women and children, even a baby.
A variety of evidence is available on Hamas' cruelty, which includes the murder of parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents. There were sexual assaults, rapes and mutilations, while some victims were bound and some of the dead were desecrated. Some homes were burned with the people still inside.
None of this is in dispute. But some people have disseminated unverified information on the events that day.
According to a reporter for i24News, an army commander told her that at least 40 babies had been killed, some of them beheaded.
The channel said: “Reports of the atrocities and the estimated numbers are based on testimonies by officers who removed bodies from Gaza border communities.” It said these accounts were collected during the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit’s tour for foreign correspondents four days into the war.
The station added: “Similar reports were repeated in testimonies by Zaka personnel. [Zaka is the ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization whose members retrieve bodies after terror attacks.] Our correspondents brought in the voices from the field; we interviewed the officers and reported from the scene, surrounded by atrocities from the vicious attack. We always act to ensure the accuracy of the details and add clarifications and corrections.”
The report above was later quoted on social media, often referenced as “dozens of beheaded babies,” though sometimes it was “burnt babies” or “hanged babies.” For example, the Foreign Ministry published an account by Col. Golan Vach from the Home Front Command, who said that in one house he found the bodies of eight burnt babies.
The X (formerly Twitter) account of the Prime Minister’s Office also referred to the murder of infants and showed very graphic pictures. According to the tweet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the pictures to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Last week Ishay Coen, a journalist for the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Hashabbat, interviewed Lt. Col. Yaron Buskila of the Israel Defense Forces's Gaza Division. Buskila talked about babies who had been hung on clotheslines; his remarks were cited by a host of Twitter personalities around the world.
A tweet by Ishay Coen, a journalist for the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Hashabbat, regarding his interview with Lt. Col. Yaron Buskila.
Coen wrote that he was later informed that the story was inaccurate and deleted the post. “Why would an army officer invent such a horrifying story? I was wrong,” he added.
This story was false, but Hamas terrorists did desecrate corpses during the massacre, especially the bodies of soldiers. There were also beheadings and cases of dismemberment.
According to sources including Israel's National Insurance Institute, kibbutz leaders and the police, on October 7 one baby was murdered, 10-month-old Mila Cohen. She was killed with her father, Ohad, on Kibbutz Be'eri.
In another incident, on the morning of October 7, a heavily pregnant Bedouin woman was on her way to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva because her contractions had begun. Terrorists shot her in the stomach. Later hospital staff delivered the baby girl, who died a few hours later.
According to the National Insurance Institute, five other children aged 6 or under were murdered, including Omer Kedem Siman Tov, 2, and his 6-year-old twin sisters Arbel and Shachar, who were killed on Kibbutz Nir Oz. There was also 5-year-old Yazan Zakaria Abu Jama from Arara in the southern Negev, who was killed in a Hamas rocket strike, and 5-year-old Eitan Kapshetar, who was murdered with his parents and his 8-year-old sister, Aline, near Sderot.
Fourteen children aged 12 to 15 were killed in in Israel in rocket strikes launched from Gaza, not at massacre sites in southern Israeli communities. Most of the other children who were murdered were killed in or near their homes, usually with other family members.
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.” Still, there were many bound bodies . According to people from Zaka and another search-and-rescue organization, United Hatzalah, there were bound bodies but the number is not known.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit does not deny that Lt. Col. Buskila's remarks about babies strung up on clotheslines do not jibe with reality. It said: "The officer serves as a reservist operations officer. He arrived at a large number of scenes after the attack and saw many difficult sights as part of his duties. The details of the incident will be clarified with the officer, and it will be made clear to him that he should not describe events whose details are unclear and unofficial."
As for Col. Vach’s remarks on the bodies of eight burned babies, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said he “described difficult sights that he saw during his various missions evacuating bodies at the start of the war. The review was conducted in English, and the officer used the word 'babies' to describe a number of children’s bodies that were found. The error was made in good faith and does not mitigate the severity of the atrocities committed."
Some of the incorrect descriptions were made by Zaka personnel; one repeatedly talked about 20 bound and burned bodies of children at a kibbutz.
He told Haaretz that these were boys and girls between 10 and 15 found behind Kibbutz Kfar Azza's dining hall. Elsewhere, he said he saw 20 children from Kibbutz Be'eri laid next to each other and burned to death with their hands bound.
This description does not conform to the list of the dead. The teenagers murdered on Kfar Azza were Yiftach Kutz, 14, and his brother, Yonatan, 16. Their sister, Rotem, an 18-year-old soldier, was murdered with them. Nine minors were murdered at Be'eri; at least some of them were with their parents and killed in their homes, so it is possible that 20 bodies were all in one place.
Most of the murdered children were in the company of at least one parent in or next to their homes. One case that sounds similar to the description by the Zaka member occurred not on Kfar Azza but behind the dining hall at Be'eri, where dozens of Hamas terrorists held 15 Israelis in and around the house of Pessi Cohen and House 424 in the Ashelim neighborhood. Thirteen of the hostages were murdered, including the twins Yanai and Liel Hetzroni, 12.
The same Zaka member also repeatedly spoke about the body of a pregnant woman found at Kibbutz Be'eri whose abdomen had been cut open.
He repeated his account to Haaretz, adding that he saw this woman at House 426 on the kibbutz. “It was full of blood,” he said. “When we turned her over, we saw that the abdomen was open. A knife was next to her, and we saw the fetus attached by the umbilical cord, and she had been shot from behind.”
A 'FakeReporter' tweet debunking a video of a pregnant woman apparently being abused: 'This hard-to-watch video was not filmed in Israel,' the tweet reads in Hebrew.
He said that he found the woman next to the house's entrance, and that a 6- or 7-year-old boy was found shot in the safe room.
Eighty-seven people from Kibbutz Be'eri were murdered on October 7, and the body of a kidnapped kibbutz member, Yehudit Weiss, was found in Gaza. The death of kibbutz member Ofra Keidar, who had been abducted from the Be'eri area, was announced last week.
But no children 6 or 7 or near those ages were killed on Be'eri. House 426 is in the Ashelim neighborhood, which largely houses kibbutz veterans – older people. House 426 is also a two-family house where elderly families lived; Rafi Mordo was murdered and his neighbor, Simcha Shani, was wounded.
Shani and her husband did not mention a pregnant woman or a family with young children who were guests in their house. A clip was posted on social media describing the murder of a pregnant woman, but the website Fake Reporter and other sources say the video was not filmed in Israel.
The kibbutz adds that “the story of the pregnant woman reported by Zaka is not relevant to Be'eri.” The police say the case is not known to them, and a pathology source at the Shura army base told Haaretz that he was unaware of the case.
Zaka said: “The volunteers are not pathology experts and do not have the professional tools to identify a murdered person and his age, or declare how he was murdered, except for eyewitness testimony."
As for the pregnant woman, Zaka said that due to the condition of the bodies when they were found, the volunteers might have misinterpreted what they saw.
In another story that spread a few weeks ago, United Hatzalah President Eli Beer told of a baby that was placed in an oven and burned to death. Beer made the remarks at a donors conference in the United States. The British newspaper The Daily Mail changed it from “baby” to “babies."
But this story also is not true. Ten-month-old Mila Cohen was murdered in the massacre, along with the baby still in the womb of her mother who died after her mother was shot on the way to hospital. The police have no evidence showing that other babies were killed. A source at United Hatzalah said a volunteer mistakenly interpreted a case at the Shura base and passed the inaccuracy on to Beer.
Another doubtful claim was made by the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, in a letter to U.S. First Lady Jill Biden. Sara Netanyahu wrote that one of the women was in her ninth month of pregnancy when she was abducted into Gaza, where she gave birth. People on social media published a photo of the hostage, Nutthawaree Munkan, a Thai citizen.
In a magazine interview, her friends, employer and families denied that she was pregnant. Munkan was released over a week ago; she was not pregnant and had not given birth. The army currently has no information about an abducted pregnant woman, and defense officials consider the story an unsubstantiated rumor. The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond.
Zaka responded: “Fifty-two days ago, Zaka volunteers went into the inferno [of October 7] with dedication under fire so that the dead could be respected. Out of respect for the dead, in ‘routine’ times Zaka volunteers take care not to photograph or describe the horrors they see, but this time, respect for the living required the volunteers to testify to prevent denial of the atrocity."
Zaka said that “the volunteers collected the remains of people who had been massacred, bound, burned and raped in ways that the soul cannot comprehend, under the terrible pressure of rocket barrages and gunfire from a few meters away.
“At Be'eri, the volunteers handled more than 100 bodies of the murdered and fallen, of whom 90 were members of the kibbutz. Since the start of the war, the volunteers have handled more than 1,000 bodies of the murdered and fallen. The work of the Zaka volunteers is to bring every person and drop of blood for burial.
“A terrible massacre was committed at the Gaza border kibbutzim that no one can deny, and Zaka volunteers are the people who dealt with the atrocities to bring the massacred people for burial.”