Warning: This piece contains distressing footage that may be disturbing to viewers.
Just hours after hundreds of bodies were pulled from the wreckage of an Israeli music festival following a massacre carried out by Palestinian militants, survivors are stepping forward to share the horrific story of how the attack unfolded.
The Supernova festival, a celebration coinciding with the Jewish holiday Sukkot held in southern Israel, near the country’s border with Gaza, was in full swing Saturday just after dawn when sirens began to sound, festival-goers told the BBC. Rocket strikes soon followed, leading attendees to seek shelter.
According to an account shared with The Washington Post, a voice then loudly cut through the grounds as the trance music that had been playing for hours stopped abruptly: “Guys, we have red alert,” the voice warned. “Red alert.”
Then the gunmen, part of a force organized by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, began to arrive.
“They turned off the electricity and suddenly out of nowhere they [militants] come inside with gunfire, opening fire in every direction,” one survivor, identified only as Ortel, told Israel’s Channel 12.
“They fired bursts, and we reached a point where everyone stopped their vehicles and started running. I went into a tree, a bush like this, and they just started spraying people,” they continued. “I saw masses of wounded people thrown around and I’m in a tree and trying to understand what’s going on.”
Another attendee compared the carnage to a “horror movie” in an interview with Channel 12—saying that many of those who survived hid in nearby bushes or fled the festival grounds to neighboring fruit orchards.
In one particularly harrowing interview broadcast on the BBC, survivor Gili Yoskovich gave a play-by-play of her experience hiding from the gunmen under a tree in a neighboring field.
“They were going tree by tree and shooting. I saw people were dying all around. I was very quiet. I didn’t cry, I didn’t do anything.”
“I was on the one hand breathing, saying: ‘OK, I’m going to die. It’s OK, just breathe, just close your eyes,’ because it was shooting everywhere, it was very very close to me.”
In all, more than 250 bodies have been recovered from the site, according to reports in The Times of Israel.
On Sunday, the Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer team confirmed that 43-year-old former star Lior Asulin had been killed at the festival.
Other festival-goers were apparently kidnapped and taken across the border into Gaza—including Shani Louk, a German woman whose naked body was paraded in a pickup truck surrounded by Hamas militants.
“We recognized her by the tattoos, and she has long dreadlocks,” Tom Weintraub Louk, Shani’s first cousin, told The Washington Post of seeing footage of her on social media.
Louk had been attending the outdoor music festival when militants stormed the area. The family has still not received any news on Shani, but her cousin said they still “have some kind of hope.” On Sunday, her family told Der Spiegel that her credit card had been used in Gaza.
Another Israeli woman, identified as Noa in a tweet shared by the Israel Foreign Ministry, was said to have been taken hostage by Hamas militants while attending the music festival. She was filmed screaming as she was dragged away from the festival by armed militants.
Amir Moadi, Noa’s university roommate, was quoted telling the Daily Mail that her family only learned of her kidnapping when they saw the video online. She had been attending the festival with her boyfriend, Avi, when she was snatched, Moadi said. Now, both of them are missing.
“I was supposed to go to the desert party but decided at the last minute not to,” Moadi told the Daily Mail. “We last heard from her around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. this morning when she texted us all to say that terrorists had opened fire and were chasing everyone but that they were both safe in hiding. We haven’t heard from them since but then, unfortunately, we saw the disturbing videos of her abduction online.”
“Her parents are in shock and can’t even speak,” Moadi said.
Hamas has since claimed that it took more than 130 hostages from multiple sites in Israel—in addition to another 30 or so people being held by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.
Worried friends and relatives of the missing and captured have taken to social media to plead for their safe return.
“It is unprecedented in our history that we have so many Israeli nationals in the hands of a terrorist organization,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told CNN.
The Israeli military could not give an exact number of hostages taken by Hamas gunmen who infiltrated nearly two dozen Israeli towns and military posts in an unexpected attack. But the IDF said it is “unfortunately, a significant number.”
Families of the missing, meanwhile, were left to search for clues concerning their loved ones’ whereabouts in footage circulating on social media.
Israeli diplomat Elad Strohmayer shared the story of another family in a gut-wrenching situation on X late Saturday, that of Yuval Cohen, who posted a desperate plea for the return of a mother and her two young daughters.
“Hamas is holding my sister-in-law Doron and my two little nieces… Raz and Aviv. All in all 4½ and 2½ years old,” Cohen wrote. “May the whole world see these faces and bring them back home to us.”
Further videos of abductions by Hamas militants surfaced across the internet, depicting armed men restraining civilians and leading them away in vehicles to unknown locations.
One video posted to X and verified by The Washington Post shows men in military garments armed with rifles dragging five people down the streets of Be’eri, barefoot and with their hands restrained behind their backs
Another video shows a woman covered in cuts and blood with her hands zip-tied behind her back being detained by armed men and forcibly led away in a vehicle.
An Israeli man, Yoni Asher, told the Wall Street Journal that his wife and their young daughters were missing after visiting their grandmother near the Gaza border. His wife called from a safe room and said that Hamas militants were nearby.
Asher later lost contact with his family but managed to track his wife’s smartphone to Khan Yunis in Gaza.
Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri was quoted telling Al Jazeera on Saturday that all the Israeli hostages taken to the Gaza Strip would likely be freed in exchange for Palestinians serving out sentences in Israeli prisons.
“Our detainees in [Israeli] prisons, their freedom is looming large. What we have in our hands will release all our prisoners. The longer fighting continues, the higher the number of prisoners will become,” he said.