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Israel-Palestine war: Supernova festival attack survivors describe 'hell on Earth'

Survivors of Hamas-led attacks on the Supernova festival and kibbutzim in southern Israel recount experiences to Hebrew media
Israeli troops inspect the ravaged site of the weekend attack on the Supernova desert music Festival, 10 October 2023 (AFP)

Civilian survivors of Hamas-led attacks on a music festival and kibbutzim close to Israel’s border fence with Gaza have been speaking to Hebrew media about their experiences. 

At the Supernova festival, which took place in the woods next to Reim, a secular kibbutz in southern Israel, witnesses spoke of Hamas fighters on motorcycles opening fire on hundreds of people, who had already begun fleeing the party because of rocket fire launched from the besieged Gaza Strip. 

Two-hundred and sixty people have been reported dead following the attack, which began at 6.30am on Saturday morning.

“Suddenly a van with terrorists arrived in front of us and they started shooting us,” one survivor told Haaretz. “They came from all directions, people went like sheep to the slaughter.”

The Israeli army took five hours to arrive on the scene, eyewitnesses said, as those present hid in the undergrowth and police officers present acted as security forces. Others said that dozens of people had hid in ditches and orchards, begging for help as Hamas fighters swept through the area. 

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Michal, an Israeli survivor, told Kan News that she ran into a small cabin, which had about 50 people in it. The Hamas fighters shot at those in the cabin, she said, and in a brief moment of quiet an Israeli policewoman present told the group that if they wanted to survive they should run. 

But, Michal said, the route out was blocked and she was confronted by five Hamas pick-up trucks. She lay under a tank for six hours and then, “at some point, they threw a grenade at us”. Michal said she was hit by a bullet in the leg.

“It was hell on earth,” another survivor told the Israeli broadcaster.

Survivors have spoken of their shock at the response from the Israeli army. 

“They told us that the army was guarding us,” one festival-goer told Israel’s Channel 13 News, “we didn’t want to go home.”

The outlet reported that the young men and women “simply had no chance against dozens of armed terrorists, who were spread out along all the access roads to the party”.  

'The kibbutz is under siege, the army has not yet arrived'

- Anna, Israeli citizen

One attendee, Omer, told Haaretz he had seen gunfire coming from all directions. People ran, looking to get into vehicles to escape the attack. Omer escaped with some others but found the road leading out littered with burnt-out cars. 

He said gunmen opened fire on his group: “It was a battlefield.”

“It was mayhem,” another witness said. “They came from everywhere.”

Michael Zrihan, the uncle of festival-goer Shahar Mantsur, told Haaretz that after he reached his nephew’s girlfriend over the phone, she told him Mantsur had “gotten a bullet in the neck, and she was hiding in the car”.

Two hours later, they spoke again. “She was screaming, ‘I’m being shot at, I don’t know what to do’, and we’ve lost contact since then.”

Following the attack, the area the festival took place in was strewn with bodies, burnt-out cars, bullets and ammunition casings. The Zaka rescue organisation told Hebrew media that at least 250 bodies had been removed from the scene. 

Kibbutz attacks

Elsewhere, Israel Hayom reported that the granddaughter of former Israeli national football team coach Shlomo Sharaf was killed in one of the attacks on communities close to Gaza.

According to the family’s testimony, 22-year-old Mai Naim fled to a shelter in the area of the settlement of Be'eri, when Hamas fighters found and killed her. 

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The Hamas attack on the kibbutz began at 6am on Saturday, according to Israel’s Yedioth Ahronot newspaper. On the community’s WhatsApp group, messages relaying the murder of loved ones began to appear.

One kibbutz resident, born in Costa Rica, “wielded a machete” he had got in the Central American country, but said he knew it wouldn’t help him against the Hamas fighters, and that he had “never been scared like that” before.

Anna, a resident of the kibbutz, spoke to Israel Hayom as the attack was taking place: “My children were injured by gunfire from terrorists on a passing vehicle near the kibbutz. They sent us for medical treatment, and on the way, we saw wounded and dead. The kibbutz is under siege, the army has not yet arrived... In all my years in the Gaza periphery, I have never seen anything like this.”

Ella, a resident of another kibbutz, told Channel 12 News she had identified her father in pictures posted on the Telegram messaging app. “I think they kidnaped him to the Gaza Strip,” she said. “He wrote to me that they entered their home and kidnapped them.”

Hundreds of residents of the Be'eri kibbutz have now been evacuated to the Dead Sea area, where they are being housed in hotels.

“I couldn’t believe we survived,” 15-year-old Gal Hagi told Ynet.

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