Much of the Israeli stories of Hamas 'atrocities' on 7 October were simply false: France’s Libération

Ahram Online , Thursday 14 Dec 2023

Some of the crucial details of Israel’s narrative claiming Hamas committed mass atrocities on 7 October were simply false and a result of Israel's desire to obtain public and international support for violent retaliation against Gaza, according to an investigation conducted by the French newspaper Libération.

File Photo: Palestinians climb atop a burning Israeli tank near the Gaza-Israel boundary fence on in October. AP


The newspaper’s investigation published on 12 December stated: “No heads were cut off, no children were placed in ovens, no pregnant women’s stomachs were cut open, and no children’s hands were tied behind their backs,” but pointed out that “only one infant was killed out of 40 minors killed in the attack."

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first to claim on 11 October that Hamas had beheaded babies in the Kfar Aza kibbutz.

A day later, the Israeli government said it could not confirm that claim.

This did not stop US President Joe Biden, however, from falsely claiming he had personally seen pictures depicting such beheading. The White House later walked back this statement.

Influenced by Israeli narratives, other European and Western leaders also shed tears in public over the atrocities Hamas "committed against innocent Israeli civilians on 7 October" before any independent investigation was conducted.

Shortly after Hamas carried out the Aqsa Flood Operation in the Envelope of Gaza on 7 October, Israel said Hamas fighters killed 1,400 Israelis in cold blood on the day of the attack, including "massacring hundreds of concert-goers at a peace music festival" in the Gaza Envelope.

A few weeks later, Israel revised its casualty toll for 7 October down to 1,200 without explaining.

However, in November, an investigation by Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, revealed police reports showed that many of the concert-goers who were killed on 7 October died while fleeing the site of the festival as Israeli helicopters opened fire on what it believed were Hamas fighters.

Unreliable eyewitnesses

The Libération investigation blamed the spread of this narrative on the media's reliance on unreliable eyewitnesses, including soldiers and search-and-rescue volunteers who responded to the attacks.

The paper explained that these accounts are unsupported by evidence collected over the two months since the attack.

Libération cited the Israeli search-and-rescue NGO ZAKA, whose members were among the first responders to the attack on 7 October, as the primary source of these claims, including reports of rape, mutilation, and immolation. 

However, the organization later stated that some members “may have misunderstood what they saw because they are not forensic specialists.”

The testimonies provided by soldiers have also been unreliable.

The French newspaper singled out the claims by Colonel Golan Fach, head of the Israeli military search and rescue unit, “who claimed he saw the burned bodies of infants,” also in Kfar Aza.

The newspaper noted, however, that an Israeli military spokesman eventually said the colonel had erroneously used the word 'infants' instead of 'children'. 

Another Israeli soldier claimed to have seen infants hanging from a clothesline in Kfar Aza, a claim that, as Libération pointed out, was later denied by an unnamed military spokesman.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has also cast doubt on these allegations.

In an investigation published on 3 December, it said that the allegations of beheaded babies were “incorrect and had no basis in reality.”

The newspaper said that what happened that day led to the spread of "horror stories, none of which happened in reality."

Israel has failed, to date, to respond to requests from some rights groups who pressed Tel Aviv to provide proof of sexual crimes committed by Hamas fighters on 7 October.

Some freed captives speak out

Hamas has insisted all along that it treats all of its 250 Israeli prisoners it captured on 7 October with respect and dignity in contrast to the inhumane treatment and torture suffered by thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and its Nazi-style war crimes against the population in Gaza.

The testimonies of several Israeli captives freed by Hamas corroborated that claim.

In late October, after her release by the group on humanitarian grounds, an Israeli senior citizen said she was treated with respect and received medical attention from Hamas doctors.

Other videos released by Hamas showed several Israeli captives, who were released in the prisoners swap under the truce deal with Israel in late November, cordially bidding Hamas fighters farewell upon their release.

These Hamas-released videos on the treatment of Israeli captives prompted Israel to ban freed prisoners from talking to the media as Israel continued to peddle wild narratives of what happened on 7 October to dehumanize Palestinians. 

However, in a video released by Hamas, one of those freed Israeli captives, Gali Tarshansky, 13, is heard saying in Arabic Ma'salama as she waved goodbye to Hamas fighters before the Red Cross van drove her home.

In a separate video posted on social media, another freed Israeli woman, Maya Regev, 21, said Hamas doctors operated for three hours on her injured leg immediately after she was captured on 7 October.

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