Israeli forces have described the horrific scene of a “massacre” in an Israeli community, called a kibbutz, where women, children and the elderly were “brutally butchered” by Hamas militants over the weekend.
As officials begin to assess and work to clean up the damage following Hamas’ attack on Israel over the weekend, with overturned cars, burned-out buildings, and dead bodies littering the ground in places that were attacked, horrific new details are coming to light.
At the Kfar Aza kibbutz, Israeli Defense Forces retrieved dead bodies from houses on Tuesday, with the stench of death wafting through the air, according to a Reuters report from the scene. Both Israelis and Hamas militants were among the dead.
“You see the babies, the mothers, the fathers, in their bedrooms, in their protection rooms, and how the terrorist kills them. It's not a war, it’s not a battlefield,” Israeli Major General Itai Veruv said, according to Reuters. “It's a massacre, it’s a terror activity.”
“It is something that I never saw in my life. It's something that we used to imagine from our grandfathers, grandmothers in the pogrom in Europe and other places. It's not something that happens in new history,” Veruv added.
Militants “brutally butchered” civilians “in an ISIS way of action,” the Israel Defense Forces told CNN on Tuesday. The military said it could not confirm the exact number of killed at Kfar Aza kibbutz and refused to go into exact details of how they were slaughtered, but CNN said it had seen houses set on fire and unexploded grenades scattered across the ground.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my career, never in 40 years of service this something I never imagined,” Maj. Gen. Veruv told CNN.
He described how soldiers fought “waves and waves of terrorists” for two days, moving “from battle to battle.”
“I saw hundreds of terrorists in full armor, full gear, with all the equipment and all the ability to make a massacre, go from apartment to apartment, from room to room and kill babies, mothers, fathers in their bedrooms,” Veruv said.
The attack, which Hamas launched early Saturday, is the worst attack on Israel in decades, according to a State Department assessment.
“This is a massive terrorist attack targeting Israeli civilians, gunning people down in the streets of their towns, gunning them down in their homes, dragging Israelis—men, women, and children—across the border with Gaza,” U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.
Some families in Israel hid for hours in fear for their lives, trying to keep their children quiet to avoid getting slaughtered, U.S. President Joe Biden noted Tuesday in remarks.
“This was an act of sheer evil, more than 1,000 civilians slaughtered… in Israel,” Biden said. “Parents butchered using their bodies trying to protect their children. Stomach-churning reports of babies being killed… Families hid their fear for hours and hours desperately trying to keep their kids quiet to avoid drawing attention.”
‘Exact a Price’
Biden spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a third time Tuesday, reaffirming the United States stands firmly with Israel as it seeks to defend itself.
Since the onslaught on Saturday, Israeli soldiers have been fighting off Hamas militants in southern Israel, according to CBS News. A military spokesperson said the Hamas attack had taken 1,000 lives, surpassing many other Islamist attacks, except 9/11.
Israel has since bombarded Gaza with airstrikes, killing approximately 900 Gazans, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said Tuesday. On Monday, an Israeli airstrike hit an open-air market in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, leaving 60 people dead, according to a Red Crescent volunteer, The New York Times reported. Other strikes hit mosques on Monday in Gaza, leaving them crushed and killing worshippers.
Israel is continuing to conduct “extensive strikes” against militants in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces said Tuesday evening.
The attack on Saturday marked a major escalation in a years-long conflict between the two sides, igniting fresh tensions between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s government with no offramp in sight.
Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza since 2007, but announced a “full siege” of Gaza on Monday—Defense Minister Yoav Gallant intends to allow “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” into Gaza.
A Hamas spokesperson threatened that every time Israel launches an airstrike into Gaza, Hamas will execute a civilian hostage the group has taken from Israel in the last several days.
The group has taken some American hostages, Biden said Tuesday.
Signs have begun to emerge that Israel may be preparing to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, according to CBS News. Israel has mobilized 300,000 reservists in apparent preparation for further military activity.
“Though Israel didn’t start this war, Israel will finish it,” Netanyahu said in remarks this weekend. “Hamas will understand that by attacking us they have made a mistake of historic proportions. We will exact a price that will be remembered by them and Israel’s other enemies for decades to come.“
Other tensions have flared in recent hours. Israeli soldiers have also been exchanging fire with Hezbollah militants who were launching rockets from Lebanon, according to CBS News.
Israel’s military has attacked two Hezbollah observation posts, the IDF said Tuesday.