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04:14

13 APR 2024

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  • Jenna Romano

Festival of Death: How & Why Hamas Attacked The Nova Music Festival 


A look at one of the focal points of Hamas’ brutality on October 7 - from what happened to how it happened.


october 7 massacre memorial

Photo courtesy of Zvi Zilker, made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication


  • The Nova music festival, or Supernova Sukkot Gathering, was an open-air, trance music festival held in the area of Re’im, in Israel’s western Negev desert. 


  • On October 7th, 2023, the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented terrorist attack on Israel—The Nova Music Festival was one of the central targets of the attack, where at least 364 civilians were killed and 40 hostages were reportedly taken. 


  • While Israeli security has assessed that it is unlikely Hamas had previous knowledge of the Nova Festival, nearly one-third of the overall number of deaths during the entire October 7th onslaught occurred there.

 

On October 7th, 2023, the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented terrorist attack on Israel, killing some 1,200 people (mainly civilians). 240 Israeli citizens and foreigners were taken as hostages and brought into Gaza. The attack on the Nova Music Festival, now known as the Rei’m music festival massacre, where thousands of young party-goers were targeted in the early morning hours was one of the biggest tragedies that occurred during the attack. 


Accounts from participants have described how Hamas turned the Nova music festival into a deadly and bloody event. During this attack, 364 civilians were killed and at least 40 hostages were taken. 



What Happened At The Nova Music Festival In Re’im? 


The Nova music festival, or Supernova Sukkot Gathering, was an open-air trance music festival held in the area of Re’im, in the western Negev desert. The rave, which was plugged as a celebration of “friends, love, and infinite freedom,” was scheduled for October 6th and 7th, during the Jewish holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. 


At approximately 6:30 AM on October 7th sirens went off in the area of Re’im signaling a barrage of around 5,000 rockets from Gaza. Visible rockets—a common occurrence in the area—overwhelmed the Iron Dome and were followed by gunshots. Hamas terrorists dressed in uniform arrived in vans, infiltrating the area also using motorcycles and motorized parachutes. One partygoer told Israel’s Channel 12 news the attackers “turned off the electricity and suddenly out of nowhere they came inside with gunfire, opening fire in every direction.”   


As the gunmen lobbed fire relentlessly, festival participants started running in every direction to escape. Many tried to hide by dispersing into the desert wilderness to seek cover under the sand or behind trees. Some sought refuge in bomb shelters or took cover in dumpsters. Others jumped into their cars and attempted to escape. One survivor, Maya Alper, 25, says she drove quickly down the main road only to encounter crowds of festival attendees at the intersection who were shouting to turn around


By 8:00 AM, Hamas terrorists, many of whom were dressed in Israeli police uniforms, had blocked the entry and exit roads of the festival. The situation became hopeless as the terrorists intercepted communications thereby blocking radio transmissions as festival go-ers hiding in nearby bomb shelters attempted to contact the Israeli army. Victims were hunted for hours—hammered by deadly firearms. 


Graphic footage of the massacre was distributed on Telegram and social media, depicting the murder of targeted civilians and the abduction of approximately 40 others who were taken hostage and brought into the Gaza Strip. A video showing terrified 25-year-old Noa Argamani being driven away by her captors, screaming, was originally published on Telegram by the terrorists themselves. One survivor, Hila Fakliro, described the scene as a “shooting range,” where many festival goers were “rounded up and shot like animals.” 



Why Did Hamas Attack The Nova Music Festival? 


Israeli security officials have assessed that it is likely Hamas did not have previous knowledge of the Nova Festival, as it was initially set to take place on October 6th. It is believed Hamas discovered the event through drones on the morning of the attack, and, accordingly, directed terrorists to its location. 


According to Israeli Police reports the terrorists had initially intended to attack a nearby Kibbutz in Re’im. The kibbutz is roughly 5.3 kilometers from the border between Israel and Gaza. 


In a November 19, 2023 statement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) denied that the massacre was conducted by Hamas. Instead, the PA claimed that the festival was caused by “an Israeli helicopter attack.”  Without any official announcement, the claim was quickly and quietly withdrawn as the US National Security Council spokesman reported that the PA decided that this was not their official position. 


As for the motivations for the attack, Hamas officials claim that it was a response to what they termed “an Israeli occupation.” Mohammad Deif, head of the Qassam Brigades, was recorded as saying that the massacre was in retaliation for Israel’s “desecration” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Further explaining that the attack was also a response to rejected prisoner exchange deals and the killing of hundreds of Palestinians, he proclaimed “Today the people are regaining their revolution,”  and called on Palestinians to “set the earth on fire under the feet of the occupiers.” 


Hamas political leaders praised the attacks as civilian Hamas supporters celebrated in the streets. Recent polls report 72% of Palestinian respondents thought the October 7th attacks were “correct,” with 22% disagreeing with the attack and the remaining 6% being undecided. 




How Many Casualties Resulted From The Massacre At The Nova Music Festival? 


Hamas’s attack on October 7th was the bloodiest day in Israel’s history. The casualties reflect the most Jews killed in a single day since the Holocaust. In total, around 1,300 people were killed, 3,300 injured, and an estimated 245 were believed taken hostage in Gaza


After nearly a month and a half of intense forensic identification efforts, reports indicated that 364 Israeli, Arab, and foreign citizens were killed at the festival. This amount comprises almost one-third of the onslaught’s total death toll. 


Israeli authorities believe that 40 of the hostages, who were taken to Gaza, were abducted from the Rei’m music festival. One German-Israeli civilian, Shani Louk, was believed to be held hostage when a video of her body being paraded in the streets of Gaza went viral. The footage was spread globally and quickly became a symbol of Hamas’s cruel treatment of civilians. Louk, however, was confirmed dead on October 30, 2023, when a forensic examiner found part of her skull in an area leading out of the festival grounds. This evidence led forensic experts to the certainty that it was her dead body brought into and paraded throughout Gaza.



Hamas’ Sexual And Gender-Based Violence At The Nova Music Festival 


As survivors of the festival recounted disturbing scenes from the massacre, many testified to witnessing scenes of sexual violence, including rape, gang rape, mutilation, and assault. Many of these acts were reported as being targeted at women. Even before these devastating accounts, the BBC pointed to the initial release of "videos of naked and bloodied women filmed by Hamas on the day of the attack, and photographs of bodies taken at the sites afterwards, suggests that women were sexually targeted by their attackers.”


In one case, a survivor recalled how Hama terrorists were not only raping one victim but passing her from one to another. She went on to describe how the victim’s body was mutilated when “they sliced her breast and threw it on the street” to play with it. 


Body collectors volunteering with the Zaka organization describe the evidence of sexual torture at the festival site, telling BBC that shelters were “filled with piles of women. Their clothing was torn on the upper part, but their bottoms were completely naked. Piles and piles of women.” 


Although forensic evidence is extremely difficult to verify, many activists have been critical of the silence of international women’s rights organizations. Critics have also been angered at the questioning as to the veracity of the claims as well as the extended amount of time that the UN Women took to make a statement regarding the accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence. These groups are criticized for their downplaying of testimonies and claims and global indifference towards the violence of Israeli women. 


After substantial investigations and the amassing of evidence pointing towards the sexual violence employed on October 7th, Israel accused Hamas of using rape as a weapon of war.  


On November, 30th —  nearly two months after the Nova festival massacre —  Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres finally made a statement acknowledging the acts of terror and the need to investigate claims of sexual violence


Tal Hochman, a government relations officer at the Israel Women’s Network, said: “Most of the women who were raped were then killed, and we will never understand the full picture, because either bodies were burned too badly or the victims were buried and the forensic evidence buried too. No samples were taken.”


On December 28, New York Times published an investigation revealing details of Hamas’s weaponization of rape during the October 7 attacks, confirming these were not just isolated events. The reporters interviewed more than 150 people—witnesses including survivors, soldiers, rape counselors, first responders, and beyond—exposing the brutality of the sexual violence during these attacks. 

 

Sources 


X (Formerly Twitter), Gianluca Pacchiani Status, October 7, 2023



Wikipedia, Re'im music festival massacre, last updated December 25, 2023


Rolling Stone, ‘They Wanted to Dance in Peace. And They Got Slaughtered’, October 15, 2023 



 



 


 

 

 

 



 

 


 

 

 

 

 

X (formerly Twitter), António Guterres status, November 30, 2023

 


 

Jenna Romano

Jenna Romano


Jenna Romano is a writer, editor and blogger. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Telavivian, Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, Portfolio, Wix Blog, and more.

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