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“At least 40 babies killed”: what is known about the massacre in Kibbutz Kfar Aza

11-10-2023 |

Journalists from the BBC and the New York Times have been allowed into Kibbutz Kfar Aza, an Israeli community on the border with Gaza where people were killed when Hamas broke through the border on Saturday. Infants and children were among the dead, the New York Times reports.

“Soldiers who spent much of the day in the ruins recovering bodies of civilians said that there had been a massacre. It seems likely that much of the killing happened in the first hours of the assault on Saturday,” the BBC reports.

The Israeli army took 12 hours to reach the community, Davidi Ben Zion, the deputy commander of Unit 71, an experienced team of paratroopers who led the assault, told the BBC, and fighting continued until Tuesday morning.

"Thank God we saved many lives of many parents and children," he said. "Unfortunately, some were burned by Molotov [cocktails]. They are very aggressive, like animals."

Photo: Oren Rosenfeld

Mr Ben Zion said Hamas gunmen who killed families, including babies, were "just a jihad machine to kill everybody, [people] without weapons, without nothing, just normal citizens that want to take their breakfast and that's all."

Some of the victims, he said, were decapitated.

The New York Times reported:

“Past the village dining hall, kindergarten and culture center, the tidy rows of one-story beige houses came into view. And the scale of the horror began to unfold …

After days of stunned national numbness and chaos, the dimensions of the atrocity that took place here were now coming into clear focus. In all, more than 1,000 soldiers and civilians have been killed in Israel. Nobody could say how many of them were lying here, in Kfar Azza, but it is emerging as one of the worst sites of the bloodshed. Soldiers and rescue workers said scores, possibly hundreds, had been slaughtered here, including grandparents, infants and children.”

Kibbutz Kfar Aza adds to the considerable evidence that is accumulating of war crimes by Hamas gunmen. Like their Israeli neighbours, the community was taken by surprise.

Its first line of defence was the kibbutz guard, residents with military experience who patrolled the perimeter. They were killed fighting the attackers.

All the houses had reinforced safe rooms. They also had outside terraces, barbeques, swings for the children and fresh air.

But no-one - here in Kfar Aza or elsewhere in Israel - imagined Hamas would be able to breach Israel's defences and kill so many people.

It is clear that the killing of hundreds of civilians by the Hamas attackers is grave violation of the laws of war. Israelis reject any comparison between the way Hamas kills civilians and the way Palestinian civilians die in their air strikes.

Major General Itai Veruv, who was about to retire when he led the fight to take back the kibbutz, insisted that Israel was respecting its obligations under the laws of war.

"I'm sure we fight for our values and culture… we will be very aggressive and very strong but we keep our moral values. We are Israeli, we are Jewish."

He denied strongly that they had suspended their obligations under the laws of war. It is certain though that as more Palestinian civilians die, Israel will face stronger and stronger criticism.

Source: BBC, The Guardian