A festival taking place in southern Israel was brutally interrupted on Saturday morning when a Hamas attack began from the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of people fled in cars or on foot across a wide field. Many died, many became hostages. “We didn’t even have a place to hide, we were in the open,” Tal Gibly, who survived the attack, told CNN. She added that many of her friends were killed.
On Saturday morning, the radical Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel. The militants fired 3,500 rockets from the Gaza Strip towards Israel and entered the country by land, sea and air. The attacks affected many places. One was the site of an outdoor event taking place that night as part of the Nova Festival in rural farmland about three kilometers from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
There was supposed to be music and fun, there was an escape and a fight for life
The event was supposed to be a music and dance party on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. But when dawn broke – as one of the event participants, Tal Gibly, told CNN – festival goers heard rockets and alarm sirens.
“We didn’t even have a place to hide because we were in the open,” she recalled. “Everyone panicked and started collecting their things,” she added.
The attackers left many people dead at the event site, many were taken hostage, as seen in videos on social media.
Explosions can be heard in the footage taken by Gilby. You can see the event area getting empty quickly. At that time, the woman and her friends did not know that a few kilometers away, militants were attacking Israeli soldiers and military vehicles.
“Like it was a shooting range”
Some people got into their cars and started driving away, but, Gilby said, the roads were blocked and no one could get through. That’s when – she recalled – they started shooting.
The videos shot by Gibly show an Israeli military vehicle driving against traffic and cars trying to get out of my way. You can also hear someone shouting: “Go, go ahead!”
Then Gibly and her friends panicked. They abandoned the car and started running away.
Video circulating on social media shows hundreds of participants fleeing in cars or running through an empty field. Shots are heard in the background. The video shows many people falling to the ground. However, it is not clear whether they are trying to hide or were hit by gunfire.
Gibly told CNN she ran into the woods and eventually got into another passing car. She reported that she saw many dead and injured people on the side of the road, but one scene was particularly memorable – one of the concert participants was shot right in front of the van, and the other one was sitting dead in the passenger seat.
The video obtained and verified by CNN confirms her words and shows the two victims the woman was talking about.
“It was very scary,” Gibly said. – We didn’t know where to go so as not to meet these bad people – she explained. – I have many friends who got lost in the forest for many hours and were shot as if it were a shooting range – she said.
“They went from tree to tree and shot. Everywhere.”
Gili Yoskovich, interviewed by the BBC, was among hundreds of young people at the festival in southern Israel.
“Fighters were everywhere, with automatic weapons,” she said. “Some people shot at me. I got out of the car and started running away. I saw a place with a lot of pomelo trees and I went there,” she explained.
“They went from tree to tree and shot. Everywhere,” she continued. “I saw that people were dying around me. I was very calm. I didn’t cry, I didn’t do anything,” she reported.
She added: “Then I heard the terrorists open a large van and take out more weapons. They were in the area for three hours.”
She also confessed: “I was sure that the army would come, I heard several helicopters. I was sure that the army (…) would come to this field and save us. But there was no one there. Only these terrorists.”
Relatives recognize the captured festival participants
Information about the number of hostages following the attack near Nova Festival is becoming more complete as relatives recognize their loved ones in videos from the Gaza Strip circulating online.
One such video showed the kidnapping of an Israeli woman and her boyfriend – who were identified as Noa Argamani and Avinatan Or – who were attending the festival. It shows Argamani being carried on the back of a motorcycle and begging for help. Or – as the recording shows – was detained by several men and forced to hold his hands behind his back. A dark cloud of smoke could also be seen in the background. CNN noted that it could not independently verify the video.
Family members and friends of the couple want the video to be shared widely. They hope that this will help them locate the pair and secure their safe release.
Moshe Or, Avinatan Or’s brother, told Channel 12 it didn’t take him long to find the video online. “I saw his girlfriend, Noa, terrified in the video (…). I can’t imagine what she’s going through – screaming in panic on a motorcycle while some bastards are holding her and not letting her go,” he said. He also recognized his brother in the video. He indicated that several people were holding him.
Attack from Gaza. Others joined Hamas
The Hamas attack was launched from the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, however, the Arab Shiite organization Hezbollah reported that it had attacked with “a large number of artillery shells and guided missiles” Lebanon three Israeli positions on a disputed section of the Israeli-Syrian border along the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Funded by Iran Hezbollah added that it carried out the shelling “as a sign of solidarity with the resistance of the Palestinian people.”
In addition, a Palestinian armed group joined Hamas, Islamic Jihad. She reported taking several Israeli soldiers hostage. Hamas militants are still holding hostages in two towns in Israel. According to Reuters, about 50 people are being held in the canteen of Kibbutz Beeri.
Media reports over 600 dead and over 2,000 wounded on the Israeli side.
Meanwhile, the Israeli armed forces are bombarding the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the unprecedented attack that began on Saturday morning. – Israel will reach Hamas fighters wherever they hide, said the Israeli prime minister on Saturday Benjamin Netanyahu and appealed to the people of Gaza to leave the territories where the fighters are present.
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