We were told Hamas killed 1400 Israelis on October 7, that they carried out rapes and torture of civilians en masse and, of course, that they beheaded babies.
These claims are being used to justify Israel’s bombardment of Gaza – the world’s largest open-air prison. Israel’s bombing of the strip, where over 50% of the population are children, has cost the lives of more than 5,000 people and left more than one million homeless.
Recent events surrounding the Gaza conflict have prompted questions about the accuracy of reported actions attributed to Hamas and Israel’s military response. A closer examination reveals a complex and, at times, conflicting narrative.
On October 7, initial reports suggested that Hamas had killed 1,400 Israelis, conducted mass rapes and torture, and even beheaded babies. These claims were cited as justification for Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza.
However, skepticism has emerged about the accuracy of these claims, as details remain unclear. The mainstream corporate media has largely adopted the narrative of the Israeli government, placing the blame squarely on Hamas. Nonetheless, emerging evidence from within the Israeli military and media has challenged that narrative.
One critical point of contention is the official list of Israeli casualties. Israel released a list of its dead on October 23, revealing that over 48% of those listed were soldiers or armed police on active duty, not civilians. Additionally, it has become evident that members of armed settler militias were also among the casualties.
Survivor testimonies, such as that of Yasmin Porat, suggest that Hamas captured civilians as bargaining chips to end the illegal siege on Gaza and secure the release of some of the 5,300 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, many of whom are women and children. Porat noted that Hamas treated her and others humanely, with an expressed intention to transport them to Gaza.
“They were very humane towards us,” she said in an interview on Israeli state radio. She also added that one Hamas fighter told her, ‘We’re not going to kill you. We want to take you to Gaza.’ Once released, Porat also claimed that the Israeli government gave her a specific script of talking points that she refused to go along with.
The situation escalated when Israeli police and military arrived and initiated heavy gunfire and even tank shell attacks. Several Israeli testimonies now claim that they were fired upon by Israeli military and police rather than Hamas.
This approach appears consistent with the “Hannibal Directive,” an Israeli military policy dating back to 1986 that prioritizes preventing the capture of Israelis by enemy forces, even at the cost of their lives. This directive implies that Israelis might be killed rather than allowed to fall into the hands of Hamas.
The Hannibal Directive was certainly used on October 7, when Hamas overran an Israeli military base at the Erez Crossing. Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld, the commander of the base, called in an airstrike on his own position, even as he and countless others were stationed there and still fighting Hamas. This was reported by Amos Harel in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
During the events of October 7, Hamas fighters managed to escape their Gaza prison using paragliders to reach Israeli military bases. They did kill and take Israelis captive. However, questions linger as video footage reveals Israeli police standing beside a truck and firing at approaching Palestinian fighters, raising doubts about the initial assumption that Hamas was attacking civilians at a festival.
The claims of “beheaded babies” made headlines on various news outlets, including CNN. The source of this claim was the Israeli channel i24 News, but it later emerged that the source was David Ben Zion, an extremist settler known for inciting race riots against Palestinians. A Haaretz investigation previously found that i24 News functions as a proxy for the Netanyahu family, with directives coming straight from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office at times.
Subsequently, the Israeli military distanced itself from these claims, CNN retracted the story, and the White House acknowledged a lack of evidence. Similarly, the case of Shani Louk, an Israeli tattoo artist initially reported by the Israeli government as having been raped and killed, took a different turn when her mother confirmed that she was safe in Gaza and was being treated in a hospital for a head injury.
The complex and evolving narrative surrounding the October 7 events has raised doubts about the justifications for Israel’s brutal military response in Gaza. As the situation continues to unfold, it becomes increasingly apparent that the true story of that day may not be as straightforward as initially portrayed.