Suzan Quitaz was among the international journalists invited to watch the raw footage of the atrocities committed by Hamas during the 7 October Pogrom. She reports here on what she saw. ‘I never in my life attended a press briefing where journalists looked so shocked, in horror, tears streaming, some cries could be heard throughout the big auditorium, others shouted “please stop” and some had to leave because it became too much for them’. Quitaz is a journalist at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, having worked previously at the Qatari News Channel Al-Araby TV, and on a number of documentaries for Al Jazeera International.
On Monday 23 October, at the IDF Glilot military base in Herzliya, alongside at least 100 journalists, I was invited to a screening, exclusive to international media. We were warned in advance that the materials we were going to see would be raw and unedited footage, including documentation of murder and other visually gruesome materials. We were also informed that we would not be allowed to bring phones or any other recording devices into the screening auditorium. However, we were allowed to write about what we saw.
The extremely disturbing 45-minute video comprised footage from the body-cams and mobile phones used by from Hamas terrorists, as well as material collected from civilian dash-cam footage, CCTV footage, traffic control footage, video from rescuers and imagery posted to social media by both Hamas terrorists and their victims.
IDF Maj. Gen. Mickey Edelstein, commander of the operational planning team, said ‘it was not an easy decision to take, to show us the video’. He continued, ‘The horrific massacres are hard for us to grasp too’. He added that the IDF has decided not to release the video to the public out of respect for the victims and their families and because of privacy concerns.
The lights were turned off and the screening started. Never in my life have I attended a press briefing where journalists looked so shocked, in horror, tears streaming, some cries could be heard throughout the big auditorium, others shouted ‘please stop’ and some had to leave because it became too much for them.
In the video, terrorists were shouting in Arabic with a Palestinian accent, they looked content and proud as they committed sadistic atrocities. They were talking among themselves saying ‘I swear to Allah, I just killed the coward Jew dog who was hiding under the table’. That ‘Jew dog’ was a young girl who was seen alive in the video hiding under table-desk. They shot her at close-range.
Throughout the video words such as ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning God is great, ‘shot’, ‘give me a knife’ and ‘pray to Allah to bless me with another Jew dog to kill’ were heard.
We saw homes soaked in blood, we saw beheaded people, people slaughtered with knives, young women who had been raped, and people burned beyond recognition. We saw CCTV footage of terrorists standing on roadways in southern Israel shooting at civilian cars as they speed away in fear. A car stops, terrorists surround it and continue shooting at close-range even when it’s clear the occupants are already dead.
On that Saturday morning of 7 October the terrorists shot at many civilian vehicles. In some cases, the occupants were pulled out of their cars and those who were still alive but badly injured were shot multiple times, before being thrown onto the street.
The most chilling scenes were captured from the Hamas terrorists’ body-cams. We saw terrorists walking inside Jewish communities looking for people to kill, unsuspecting people, some still asleep or just woken up and having breakfast with loved ones. The terrorists peak into the windows to see if any Jews are there. They work their way through houses, shooting people trying to hide. We saw their terrified victims, people crying and begging the terrorists not to kill them. We saw a children’s room soaked in blood. We saw babies, their tiny bodies covered with shots and others slaughtered with sharp objects.
‘Daddy, daddy, God, why I am alive’
A terrorist is talking on his mobile as he approaches a house in a kibbutz. He looks through the windows and says to the person he is speaking with on the phone ‘the cowards are hiding’. He goes in. Music can be heard in the background, the house has an open-kitchen living room style. On the table there is a phone and IPod. The terrorist continues searching for the terrified victims.
In one agonising moment, CCTV video show a father and two young boys dressed in underwear, running out of their home and into what appears to be a shelter. CCTV cameras outside the house shows terrorists run to the shelter. They throw a grenade, the father collapses and dies. The younger boy is injured in one of his eyes and covered in blood. The two young boys wail in pain and shout ‘daddy’. They are dragged back to the house and forced into the open kitchen. The small boy cries in pains and says ‘I can only see with one eye’. One of the terrorists opens the fridge looking for food. He grabs a big bottle, some sort of drink. He drinks it front of the two boys.
At that moment, I and others could not hold back our tears. The most emotional moment for me was when the older boy, not more 11 years old, crawls on the floor and wailing in pain, says in Hebrew, subtitled to English, ‘Daddy, daddy, God, why I am alive’. The terrorist continues his search for food, calmly look at the boy and smiles.
Another harrowing video was taken at the Supernova musical festival near Re’im, in southern Israel. Terrorists approach what appears to be a shelter, packed with many dead people. One terrorist walks in, checking if anyone is alive. He suddenly shouts in Palestinian Arabic, ‘there is a dog moving’. The ‘dog’ was a young man, badly injured. On his face one can see profound fear and shock. He looks at the terrorist, tears streaming down his face, but he says nothing. The terrorist shouts to another ‘give me a knife’, a reply was heard ‘just shot him’. Other terrorists came inside to check if more were alive. They find a few, their bodies covered in blood. Violently, the terrorists start pulling them out. I saw a guy with long hair. The terrorist pulled his hair and dragged him out. Terrorists were laughing among themselves, and hitting their victims while loading them in vehicles to be taken away.
The world has seen horrific images of the blurred-faces of babies, soaked in blood in their own beds. We saw those images but the faces were not blurred. Those images will haunt us for a very long time. I myself, I know, will take a long time to forget their faces.
In one of the kibbutzim, the terrorists walk into a house. A Thai man is seen on the floor injured. One terrorist is seen carrying a shovel, a farming tool, and starts aggressively hitting the man’s head. He continues until the man’s body stop moving.
As the video draws to the end and the lights are on, I see many of my journalist colleagues wiping their tears away. Prior to the screening, Maj. Gen. Edelstein said he wanted the world to understand the evil visited upon communities in southern Israel, and why the IDF would now do ‘whatever is needed to bring back the sense of security to our people’.
In an exclusive interview to us at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Major Ella Waweya, the deputy commander of the IDF’s Arabic-language spokespersons’ unit, addressed Admiral Daniel Hagari’s statement that Hamas does not represent Islam and that their 7 October atrocities go against the teachings of Islam. Major Waweya, an Arab Israeli and Muslim herself, said to us ‘What Hamas did is against Islam, against humanity, against everything a human being can think of. Hamas came to kill children, to kill women, and to kill the elderly. In which religion is that written? This is not in Islam. This is not humanity. This date, 7 October, must be engraved with all humanity in all history. This is not the war of Israel, this is the war of the whole world against Hamas-Isis’. Waweya added ‘Don’t forget 7 October’.
Major Ella Waweya, photo courtesy of the author