Footage of Hamas Attack Shows Brutality of War
A film screened Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for a select audience showed the savagery of Hamas and the human cost of war.
Universal signs of a savage enemy: Toyota pickups with paint across the tailgate scratched off to read “TOY,” “OYO,” or just “YO”; a half dozen young men with AK-47s raised in the air piled in the bed of the truck.
Several of these Toyota caravans sped down highways at an undisclosed location in southern Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Dozens of cars, burnt out and riddled with bullet-holes, lined the side of the road. One of the pickups with a 50-cal. mounted on the back came to a stop; the gunner attempted to slay Israelis fleeing into the desert.
At the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday evening, the Philos project and the Embassy of Israel hosted a private screening of footage from the Oct. 7 attack.
The approximately hour-long video was primarily a compilation of footage captured by CCTV cameras, traffic footage, dash cams, victims’ social media posts, victims’ personal devices, Hamas terrorist body cams, Hamas personal devices, and Hamas social media posts. At times the video showed Hamas radio communications intercepted by the Israeli Defense Forces and uncensored stills of Hamas’s slain victims.
Barbaric, harrowing, horrific, gruesome—none of these words do justice to the footage aired Tuesday night in the nation’s capital. The footage itself couldn’t encompass the tragic events. The film claimed that Hamas terrorists murdered 900 civilians, killed 300 soldiers, and kidnapped 240 in the day’s attacks. After an hour of portraying nothing but death and destruction, the film claimed it depicted the deaths of 139 people—less than 10 percent of the fatalities that occurred on Oct. 7.
As civilians tried to flee the attacks, Hamas terrorists cut off major escape routes. Dozens of terrorists lined major roadways, ambushing anyone driving by and operating like a moving firing squad. Some drivers managed to get past one squad of Hamas terrorists, another would be waiting just a few yards down the road.
Dash-cam footage captured a windshield shattering before the vehicle veered to the side of the road and crashed into one of the many others that had suffered the same fate. The Hamas terrorists encircled the vehicle and closed in to finish the job. Badly wounded victims tried to escape the vehicle, but could only crawl or lie on the ground, probably hoping to convince the terrorists they were already dead. “Shoot them,” one Hamas terrorist yelled as he approached a vehicle. “One is alive on the ground.” Two pops shook the terrorist’s body cam.
In one especially horrific scene, a father and two children, still only in their underwear, attempted to hide in a shed-like bomb shelter in their backyard when it became clear their neighborhood was under attack. As they made it to the shelter, a Hamas terrorist leaned over a low fence on the side of the back yard, and banked a grenade into the bomb shelter, killing the father and wounding the two boys. The boys were pulled from the shelter and into their house. For the next few minutes, they screamed for their father and mother as blood seeped from lacerations all over their body. The mother, who was not at the house at the time, eventually returned. IDF soldiers had to pry her away from her husband’s body and drag her to safety.
Hamas communications intercepted by the IDF on Oct. 7 boasted about murdering Israelis.
One Hamas terrorist used a mobile phone taken off a woman he killed to call his parents. He told his parents about how he had gotten the phone. “Dad, I killed 10 with my bare hands,” he told his father. Later, when his mother came to the phone, she told her son to, “kill, kill, kill.”
In radio communications intercepted by the IDF, one Hamas foot soldier told his higher-up that the men were playing with severed heads of Israelis. The officer told the foot soldier to send pictures. “Allahu Akbar,” one terrorist yelled. He took a gardening hoe to the neck of an Israeli murdered in their home. With each successive blow, “Allahu Akbar”—until the job was done. Another, later in the film, took a combat knife to a lifeless IDF soldier’s neck. He hoisted the severed head and marched it around like a standard.
Philos Project President Robert Nicholson took the stage with the Israeli Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission Eliav Benjamin. Nicholson gave the crowd a moment of silence to mourn and gather themselves before starting the conversation. He tried to start the conversation twice before tears welled up in his eyes and he pulled the microphone from his mouth. When he collected himself, he asked Benjamin how he first heard of the attack. On Oct. 7, Benjamin was in Washington, D.C., where he is living with his wife while on assignment. He said he was informed that something big was happening by a member of the embassy’s communications team around midnight, about seven in the morning in Israel. For Benjamin, it was a mix of panic and heartbreak. His three children are in Israel. Two are in the military. One just had a child and is starting a family.
Benjamin reflected on the terrorist’s regular invocation of the name of Allah. That’s not his God, he said. That’s not the God of anyone in this room, he surmised. Nor is it “the God of our interlocutors in the region,” who have worked with Israel towards a more stable Middle East, especially since the Abraham Accords in September of 2020.
This strange war, already past a hundred days old, will probably carry on for a hundred more. Intelligence failures have continued since the Israeli government failed to take warnings of what might come on Oct. 7 seriously. Its strategy, tactics, and some of its politicians’ rhetoric have tarnished the justness of its cause in the eyes of many. Ius ad bellum does not confer ius in bello by default.
Get daily emails in your inbox
As the war carries on, more questions crop up: What is Israel’s goal? Is it actually achievable? What are Israel’s acceptable terms for a post-war Gaza? The Israelis have given a multitude of answers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed Israel’s goal is “complete victory.” At other points, he’s claimed the goal is to “defeat Hamas,” at others, the government has claimed it wants to destroy Hamas completely and remove it from power (which is likely an unachievable goal).
Meanwhile, the Biden administration appears to be pursuing a Middle East strategy that will likely prolong hostilities. Biden seems intent on further undermining the prospect of returning to the tenuous yet stable conditions of the late Trump administration, against the national interest of both the U.S. and Israel. Then there’s Ukraine, not to mention a confrontation with China always lurking in the background.
Tuesday’s screening was a reminder of the human cost of war. Blood will always be worth more than treasure. The price, in Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, Russia, is already steep. When the dust settles, it could be astronomical. “It is well that war is so terrible,” Robert E. Lee once said, “otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”