Amid the carnage, a surreal debate – did Hamas terrorists decapitate babies or merely blast them to bits?
Startlingly, that gruesome conundrum was occupying minds yesterday as political point-scoring broke out over the massacre of helpless children.
At the Kfar Aza kibbutz in southern Israel, there can be no doubt that an atrocity unfolded. As many as 40 babies and small children were slaughtered, along with their parents and other innocents.
The smell of rotting bodies hangs in the air, according to those who visited on Tuesday. It was here that Hamas fanatics wielding assault rifles and grenades ruthlessly shot dead screaming families as they begged for their lives, before setting fire to their homes.
As well as horrors that defy belief, the small communal farm of Kfar Aza, a mile from Gaza, is now an unwitting host to one of the poisonous propaganda battles of this war – namely: were babies, while being brutally murdered, beheaded or not?
Elkana Bohbot, left, with his brother. Elkana was kidnapped whilst attending the Nova Festival
Look of terror: Elkana Bohbot is held captive by Hamas thugs in video
‘Worse than ISIS’: Photo of bloodied child’s bed posted by Israeli PM Netanyahu
A baby’s seat and a child’s dress are seen spattered in blood in the aftermath of the attack
In the context of terror group Hamas’s horrific attack – dubbed Israel’s 9/11 – it may seem to some a moot point.
The Middle East’s only democracy is a country gearing up for full-scale war – last night hospital beds were being rapidly vacated in expectation of the bloodshed to come – and many ordinary Israelis are not dwelling on the ‘beheaded-versus-shot’ distinction. But some widely followed commentators have publicly said they were ‘horrified by headlines claiming 40 babies beheaded’ when there was ‘no evidence’.
Journalist Oren Ziv was among those debunking the claim, saying ‘Israel will now use these false claims to escalate the bombing of Gaza’.
Samuel Forey, of French newspaper Le Monde, said he was in Kfar Aza and ‘no one spoke to me about beheadings, still less about beheaded children, still less about 40 beheaded children’.
They were among a group of hand-picked journalists who were invited by the Israeli military on Tuesday to bear witness to the incomprehensible scale of death and destruction in Kfar Aza, where heavily armed fighters had attacked the compound from four directions, starting with the ‘baby quarter’ on the west side where young families lived.
The grisly decapitation claims came via several other journalists on the same visit to the kibbutz. Israeli major David Ben Zion, 37, told The Independent: ‘When Hamas came here, they cut the heads of women, they cut the heads of children,’ while making a chopping motion towards his neck. The newspaper stated it could not check the claim.
Pro-Palestine former Labour and Respect Party MP George Galloway shared a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, that read: ‘Never, ever forget the ‘journalists’ and media personalities that helped spread the claims of Palestinians cutting babies heads off with no evidence.
‘Nobody spreads more misinformation than Zionists and their western media allies.’
Another user, whose profile read ‘Palestine for ever’, warned: ‘Don’t fall for the garbage propaganda.’
Gunshots and blood stains litter the walls and door of a house in the kibbutz near the border with Gaza
Israeli troops search the scene of a Palestinian militant attack in the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza on the border with the Gaza Strip on October 11, 2023
Israeli soldiers walk next to the body of Hamas militant killed in Kfar Aza kibbutz on Tuesday
IDF soldiers guard an area around Kibbutz Kfar Aza where dozens of civilians were killed days earlier in an attack by Hamas militants on this near the border with Gaza, on October 10, 2023
Israeli soldiers stands on a tank near the border with the Gaza Strip on October 10, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel
Meanwhile, Israeli TV correspondent Nicole Zedek reported how stunned soldiers had told how they had seen the bodies of babies next to their cots, their heads chopped off. And CNN’s Nick Robertson was visibly moved and could not hide his shock during his live report as he said: ‘Men, women, children, hands tied, shot, executed, beheaded.’
It was widely reported that 40 children had been slaughtered. But despite suggestions to the contrary yesterday, no UK media said they were all beheadings. In the ‘fog of war’, it is probably fair to say that no journalist is in a position to yet verify the details.
Yesterday historian Guy Walters tweeted: ‘If you’re more concerned over the methods by which the children of Kfar Aza were slaughtered rather than the fact that they were slaughtered at all, then you’ve lost something.’ Rob Burley, editor of Sky News, added: ‘They may have beheaded babies, or may have shot babies. If you’re focusing on that distinction and bizarre point-scoring around it, ask yourself why.’ It is notable that one group not complaining about the shocking claims about Hamas is Hamas itself. By contrast, the terror group appears deeply proud of its sickening barbarism. In the past few days, gruesome videos have been posted online showing its fighters murdering Israelis in horrifically imaginative ways.
Reminiscent of the sickening Isis execution videos in Syria, one such clip shows a group of soldiers locked in a cell. They are unarmed. A Hamas fighter lobs a grenade into their midst and gleefully slams the door. Another truly gut-wrenching video nasty – they are all filmed on high-definition cameras – shows an Israeli soldier having his throat slit.
There are literally dozens of these snuff-style movies. And while it is impossible to verify the horrible footage, the point is that it is apparently being filmed, edited – and even set to ‘rousing’ Arabic music – by Hamas itself, which then posts it on its official Telegram channel.
Last night Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared a shocking picture of a child’s bed with the sheets and floor soaked in blood, which he captioned, ‘Hamas is worse than Isis’.
There is one face that will haunt me – the terror etched on the features of 34-year-old Elkana Bohbot as he found himself kidnapped by Hamas at the Supernova music festival in the desert.
Callous fanatics filmed Elkana as he lay in the back of their truck – bound, beaten, bloodied, bewildered and stripped naked, along with other captives. You can see in the young father’s wide blue eyes that he knows the worst possible fate awaits him.
I met his whole family at their Jerusalem home yesterday where, in the midst of their hell, they took it in turns to play with his three-year-old son – the only one smiling thanks to the innocence of his age.
The rest have seen the vile video posted by Hamas, dubbed with ‘victorious’ music. They insisted on serving me mint tea and cakes, and Elkana’s elder brother Jacob, 35, told me: ‘He looks absolutely terrified. They all are. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. We are so helpless. The faces in the video – they understand how bad this is for them.’
Younger brother Uriel, 31, added: ‘My brother was at the festival when the attack happened. With his personality, he would never leave anyone behind. He would not run first, he would make sure everybody was OK.
‘That’s why I think he got stuck. My friend called and sent the video to me.
‘I recognised him instantly because of his blond hair and I thought, ‘oh my God, they’ve got my brother’.
‘We are petrified. Our mother is totally broken.’ Pointing behind me, Jacob said: ‘She is in bed. She is sleeping with Elkana’s shirt. We are completely losing our minds.
‘His son is only three but he is intelligent enough to know something is very wrong and that his dad is not here. Our brother is kidnapped by Hamas and is in their official video with music playing. He is a civilian and this is a world crime. It is their responsibility for his safety.’
Uriel said: ‘I want to show the world his face. I want to bring him home.
‘We do not hate anyone in the world. Elkana was at a peace festival, for goodness sake.’ Yesterday in Ashdod, a city just 27 miles north of Gaza, the thumping sound of explosions could be heard every few minutes as Hamas rockets streaked through the skies to land on neighbouring Ashkelon. Residents have long been weary, knowing that as they hear the almost-daily air raid sirens warning of a rocket launch – they have around 40 seconds before impact.
The body of a woman is covered with a blanket in Kfar Azza
Troops remove the bodies of victims, killed during an attack by Hamas terrorists in Kfar Aza, on Tuesday
A house left in ruins after an attack by Hamas militants on this kibbutz days earlier when dozens of civilians were killed near the border with Gaza on Tuesday
In her grocery shop near the centre of Ashdod, mother of three Ilana David-Yakubi, 33, shrugged and told me: ‘The rockets come almost every day. It is just normal life here. But it is hard. My five-year-old cries all the time.’
After Saturday’s attack in which marauding Hamas gunmen roamed the streets, she said: ‘We used to be afraid just of the rockets. Now we are afraid of the warriors.’
A number of usually Left-wing Israelis in Ashdod told me yesterday how their views had hardened. One summed it up by saying: ‘I have been going on demonstrations against the government’s hardline stance on Palestinians.
‘It’s not just me, we all hate what our government has been doing to them. But what has happened this last weekend, it’s beyond belief. Now all we think about is revenge.’
Scrolling through Facebook, he raged: ‘Every single post, it’s about someone who was murdered. This changes everything. There must be revenge.’