How Israeli forces trapped and killed ravers at the Nova Festival

How Israeli forces
trapped and killed ravers
at the Nova Festival

Par William Van Wagenen

Une publication The Cradle


Propagande Médias Terrorisme Guerre Droits de l’homme
Palestine Israël Occident
Article
• Langue originale : anglais


New evidence points to Israeli security forces, not Hamas, for causing the most fatalities at the music festival — civilian deaths that were then utilized to justify Tel Aviv’s Gaza genocide.

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Israeli officials allege that Hamas carried out a pre-mediated and carefully executed massacre of 364 Israeli civilians at the Nova music festival near Gaza on 7 October as part of the Palestinian resistance’s Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. They claim that Hamas and other Palestinians had hours to murder Israeli party-goers before the army reached the scene.

However, new details have emerged showing that Israel’s Border Police was deployed at the Nova site before Hamas stumbled on the festival, causing the eruption of a major battle.

While some ravers were indeed killed by the Palestinian resistance — whether by intent or in the chaos of battle — the evidence now suggests that the majority of civilian deaths were likely inflicted by Israeli forces themselves.

This was due to the overwhelming firepower employed by occupation forces — including from Apache attack helicopters — and because Tel Aviv issued the controversial Hannibal Directive to prevent Hamas from taking Israeli party-goers as captives.

Operation Philistine Horseman

At 6:30 am, just after sunrise on 7 October, fighters from the Hamas military wing, the Qassam Brigades, launched its military operation, firing a barrage of missiles toward Israel. Thousands of its fighters and those from other factions breached the Gaza border fence in multiple locations to attack surrounding Israeli military bases and take captives in settlements as leverage for a mass prisoner swap deal.

Though it would take the army hours to respond, units of the Border Police were quickly deployed. At 6:42 am, a mere 12 minutes after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was launched, the Southern District Commander of the Israeli Police, Amir Cohen, gave an order code-named “Philistine Horseman,” sending police officers and Border Police who were on alert to the sites of various battles.

This included members of the Yamam, and Tequila commando units that have no police duties but conduct military and counter-terrorism operations, including undercover assassinations in the Gaza Strip and occupied-West Bank.

According to a senior Israeli officer speaking with by the New York Times, the first formal reinforcements to southern Israel came from commandos that arrived 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.

During the fighting, 59 Israeli police officers were killed, including at least 17 at the Nova festival.

Hamas did not plan to attack the festival

Avi Mayer of the Jerusalem Post asserted that Hamas carefully planned to attack the concert in advance, intending to murder as many Israeli civilians as possible. The facts, though, tell an entirely different story.

An Israeli police investigation reported by Haaretz indicates that Hamas was unaware of the festival in advance. The official findings suggest that the intended target was Re’im, a settlement and military base located just down the road — on Route 232 — from the Nova site.

A major fight did indeed take place at Re’im, home to the Israeli army’s Gaza Division, the Palestinian resistance’s stated military target. The commander of the base was forced to call in airstrikes from an Apache helicopter on the base itself just to repel the Hamas attack.

The police investigation also indicates that Hamas fighters reached the festival site from Route 232, rather than from the Gaza border fence, further supporting the claim that the festival was not a planned target.

Following the launch of missiles from Gaza — and before Palestinian resistance fighters arrived on the scene — the organizers of the festival promptly ceased the music and initiated an evacuation.

According to a senior police officer quoted by Haaretz, roughly 4,400 people were present at Nova and the “vast majority managed to escape following a decision to disperse the event that was made four minutes after the rocket barrage,” while the first shots were not heard for another half hour.

Trapping civilians: Israel police blocked the vital 232 Road exit

However, as people exited the festival site by car and moved onto Route 232, Israeli police established roadblocks in both directions, leading to a traffic jam that trapped many party-goers in the area where fighting between Hamas and the Border Police would eventually break 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,” says one witness, Yarin Levin, who was trying to evacuate the area with his friends.

Levin, a former Israeli soldier, said this is when they had their “first encounter of the terrorists […] fighting against the police that are there […] two terrorists got lost in some kind of gun fight, so they found us.”

Another witness, Shye Weinstein, also confirms the Israeli police roadblocks that blocked the main exit from the festival. He took photos of a Border Police vehicle and a heavily armed policeman in combat gear impeding the road in front of his car.

A 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.

When gunfire erupted, those trapped on the road fled east into open fields, whether in their cars or by foot. Many made it past the fields and hid near trees, under bushes, and in ravines.

But body cam footage shows heavily armed Israeli police units taking up positions on the road and firing across the open field into the trees where civilians had taken cover.

Photos of destroyed cars near the Nova music festival

As Nova attendee Gilad Karplus, also a former Israeli soldier, told the BBC:

“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.”

Though Karplus and other party-goers were being fired on by the Border Police, they couldn’t make sense of this, and initially believed the shooting was from Hamas fighters disguised as police or soldiers. In other words, these witnesses actually saw Israeli forces firing on them.

For Hamas to have executed a plan involving elaborate disguises, the Nova operation would have had to be pre-planned, and the Israeli police investigation has already ruled that Hamas was unaware of the festival in advance. Moreover, no other site of clashes on 7 October reported sightings of Palestinian fighters donning Israeli uniforms — neither at the various breached settlements, nor at the Israeli military bases they entered.

Friendly fire

In short, both the Border Police and Apache attack helicopters were deployed to the festival site immediately. According to Israeli Air Force (reserve) Colonel Nof Erez, the helicopters were in the air by 7:15 am - 45 minutes after the launch of Al-Aqsa Flood — with a significantly larger number deployed throughout southern Israel within a few hours.

A survivor of the festival, Noa Kalash described hearing gunfire from both Hamas and Israeli forces, as well as airstrikes from attack helicopters and warplanes, while hiding in the bushes for hours to stay alive.

“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,” Kalash recalled.

It is abundantly clear that helicopter fire killed some of the terrified concert-goers. Haaretz quotes a police source saying that Apache helicopters “fired at the terrorists and apparently also hit some of the revelers who were there.”

Multiple eyewitnesses who visited the Nova site after the battle ended described the horrific destruction. As another news report states:

“It’s impossible to describe the scenes there in words. You can only list the sights that go on for a kilometer. 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 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.”

Saving bullets for soldiers

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 “urge bullets to be saved for killing soldiers. One terrified reveler in a car is asked, ‘Are you a soldier?’”

As Jones notes: “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.”

While Hamas’ ammunition was limited, the Border Police were heavily armed and Apache helicopters are equipped with Hellfire missiles and 30 mm automatic chain guns, which can hold up to 1,200 rounds of ammunition and fire 625 rounds a minute.

This suggests Israeli forces caused most of the death and destruction at Nova — which could be confirmed If Israel were to release all of its video footage from 7 October.

The Hannibal Directive

Israeli forces had not only the fire power, but also an official order to kill Israelis at Nova.

A major reason Hamas launched the Al-Aqsa Flood operation was to take Israeli captives that could be exchanged for the thousands of Palestinians held captive in Israeli prisons. But Israeli forces were determined to prevent Hamas from taking captives back to Gaza, even if this meant killing the captured civilians.

An investigation of Israel’s long-controversial Hannibal Directive concludes 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.”

But, on 7 October, according to a Yedioth Ahronoth investigation, the Hannibal Directive — which has previously only applied to army captives — was issued against Israeli civilians as well. The Hebrew-language daily writes 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.”

The order was 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 investigation concludes.

In the days and weeks after the incident, Israeli authorities made a great show of distributing images of vehicles destroyed at the festival site, fully implying that the cars — and the dead victims inside — had been burned to a crisp by Palestinian fighters. The Yedioth report completely upends that claim:

“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,” including Israeli captives.

Nof Erez, the Israeli Air Force colonel noted above, similarly concluded, in regard to Israel’s indiscriminate use of helicopter firepower that day, that “The Hannibal directive was probably deployed because once you detect a hostage situation, this is Hannibal.”

An apparent instance of this at the Nova festival was inadvertently documented by the BBC, which reported that video footage showed a woman who was taken hostage, but who:

“[…] 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 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.”

The rationale for the Hannibal Directive was further explained by Brigadier General Barak Hiram, who ordered a tank to open fire on a home to resolve a hostage situation in Kibbutz Be’eri, “even at the cost of civilian casualties.” The strike killed 12 Israelis, including 12-year-old Liel Hetzroni, and dozens of Hamas fighters.

“I am very afraid that if we return to Sarona [Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv] and try to hold all kinds of negotiations [to free hostages], 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] […]”

Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” (7 October 2023)

 

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