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Videos of Hamas attack suggest that jihadism has evolved in chilling new ways

Videos of Hamas attack suggest that jihadism has evolved in chilling new ways

The brutality and elation of Hamas militants as they killed Israeli civilians — including babies, young children and the elderly — is evident in an Israeli government compilation of videos shown to two dozen journalists in New York on Friday.

The videos, which were aired for the first time outside of Israel, consist mostly of GoPro, cellphone and dashcam footage recorded by the attackers themselves.

Israeli officials said they showed the compilation to President Joe Biden when he visited Israel on October 18th. They also showed it to a group of journalists in Israel, including NBC’s Raf Sanchez, on Wednesday. The atrocities depicted suggest that jihadism has evolved in chilling and perverse new ways.

Hamas appears to have combined the tactics of Hezbollah, the Islamic State, and the Taliban by mounting a large-scale attack that included an estimated 2,000 fighters, rocket salvos, mass hostage-taking, rape, beheadings and livestreaming.

Hezbollah has amassed a vast arsenal of rockets that it has used against Israeli forces. The Taliban carried out offensives involving thousands of fighters, particularly in the year before regaining power. And ISIS engaged in hostage-taking and posted gruesome videos online.

Hamas’ Oct. 7th attack, the worst terrorist attack in the country’s 75 year history, employed all of those tactics and killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians. Under international law, the intentional targeting of civilians is a war crime.

The militants appear at ease in GoPro videos they shot themselves, slowly searching houses filled with signs of everyday life — a freshly made breakfast, an iPad, a pair of shoes — as Israelis civilians apparently hid in nearby safe rooms. Hamas members seem amazed and surprised by the success of their operation and the slow response of Israeli security forces. 

Israeli officials told reporters at the screening in New York that Hamas attacked more than 30 locations and that it took hours for Israeli forces to dislodge them. “In some places, it took 8 to 12 hours,” said retired Maj. General Mickey Edelstein, currently serving as a reservist. “In some places, it took over a day.”

Edelstein and other officials said that some of the Hamas members had been trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran provides millions of dollars to Hamas annually, according to the U.S. State Department, and has long supported Hezbollah and other proxies across the region.

Iran has expressed support for the Hamas attack but denied direct involvement. Israeli Consul General Aviv Ezra said that was false. “Their strategic goal is quite clear,” he said. “Their goal is to surround Israel with terror armies.”

Throughout the roughly 45 minutes of footage, the attackers cheered as they killed unarmed people. Hamas members shot dead civilians in their living rooms, lit houses on fire, and hurled a grenade at a father trying to protect his three children, killing the father and one child, and partially blinding another. After civilians were shot dead in the car, Hamas militants pulled their limp bodies from the vehicle, got inside and drove away.

An image from IDF released bodycam footage found on the body of a Hamas militant that was filed on Oct 7.IDF

The footage showed Hamas members engaged in the type of butchery depicted in ISIS videos. In one scene, a Hamas member asks another fighter to film him as he fires rounds into the head of an Israeli civilian who appears to already be dead. In another, a group of Hamas terrorits argue over who gets to cut off the head of a Thai man who was working in Israel. One of them then struggles to chop off his head with a hoe.

The footage includes photographs of two babies that had been shot in the head and two infants who appear to have been burnt to a char. 

One part of the compilation is an extended version of an audio recording that was played by Israeli diplomats to the U.N. security council this week. On it, a Hamas fighter calls his parents in Gaza and brags, shouting, “Mom, I killed more than 10 Jews with my own hands,” he said. “Please be proud of me, dad.” 

After his parents praise him, the terrorist repeatedly urges his family to watch his WhatsApp feed to see what he has done. When his mother urges him to come back to Gaza, the young man replies “victory or martyrdom.” Israeli officials said they did not know if he returned to Gaza or died in subsequent fighting.

Videos showed Hamas fighters returning Gaza with Israeli hostages and corpses. In one, the body of an Israeli soldier is dumped on a street in Gaza, and Palestinian men stomp and kick it. 

In other videos, there are signs of rape. Footage shot by Israeli first responders shows the corpse of a young woman who is naked from the waist down. Israeli officials said they also found evidence that some women who were raped and killed had their legs broken. 

Israeli first responders were initially barred from taking videos or photographs of the dead out of respect for their families, officials said. But a decision was made to film what they found in order to preserve evidence of atrocities. Israeli officials said the video compilation is the most comprehensive visual evidence of war crimes carried out by Hamas.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said Israel had hoped to live in peace next to a Gaza governed by Hamas, but that the Oct. 7 attack had destroyed any hope for that outcome. He and other officials said Israel’s goal is to reduce Hamas’ military capability to the point where it cannot pose a threat of any kind to Israelis. “It will be quite a long war,” Edelstein, the retired general, predicted. 

A final group of videos showed Hamas members gunning down unarmed attendees of the SuperNova music festival. One of the videos was taken inside a bunker where young Israelis had taken shelter. After terrorists threw grenades and fired shots into the bunker, the video shows dead bodies of multiple civilians crumpled on the ground. Hamas gunmen then forced three of the survivors, including one severely wounded young man, into the back of a white pickup truck. As they drove back into Gaza, Hamas militants filmed themselves.

The injured man is 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an American citizen who is one of the 220 people currently held hostage inside Gaza.

In another video, a group of terrified young Israeli women is seen cowering inside an Israeli military base in the country’s south. They appear to be teenagers who have just been conscripted into the Israeli military at the age of 18. The footage shows a Hamas terrorist arriving and finding the young women. Israeli officials said many of them were killed. Others may have been taken captive.

Anna Schecter

Anna Schecter is a senior producer in the NBC News Investigations Unit.

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