A retired Israeli army major has admitted Israel probably killed some of the 1,200 Israelis the government claims Hamas murdered on 7 October.
The confession, discovered by The Electronic Intifada, is one of the highest level confirmations to date that Israel killed many, if not most, of the civilians that died during the Palestinian offensive.
On Saturday, it was revealed that an official Israel source had concluded for the first time that Israeli fire hit at least some Israelis.
This growing body of evidence undermines the official Israeli narrative of savage Palestinian terrorists invading Israel bent on slaughtering civilians. Hamas maintains that its targets were military and that it did not intentionally kill civilians.
The Israeli officer’s admission came in a series of videos about 7 October posted by Legacy Conversations, an obscure YouTube channel run by military and police veterans of South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Their star guest is a South African-born man who settled in Israel aged 18 and spent 29 years in the army. He took part in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and the 2014 invasion of Gaza.
The veteran is named as “Major Graeme,” using the apparent pseudonyms “Graeme Ipp” and “Graeme I.”
In a video posted only one week after 7 October, Major Graeme said that Israeli detainees in Palestinian custody were “possibly killed by Israeli airstrikes when the Israeli Air Force attacked vehicles that were returning into Gaza.”
Speaking almost two weeks before the start of Israel’s wider ground incursion into northern Gaza, Major Graeme explained that after the airstrikes “there was some bodies there that the special forces went and collected.”If accurate, this account suggests that Israel is trying to cover up evidence that – whether intentionally or otherwise – it killed its own civilians on 7 October.
At the least the account underlines the urgent need for an international investigation into what really happened on 7 October.
An anonymous group of Israelis has written an open letter calling for an independent investigation. But Israel seems unlikely to allow this, and appears to be covering up the evidence, burying some bodies before they have been identified.
Israel also made no effort to collect forensic evidence from bodies supporting its allegations of rape and sexual assault by Palestinians.
Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev last week inadvertently admitted that 200 of the dead “were so badly burnt we thought they were ours, in the end apparently they were Hamas terrorists.”This indicates that Israeli bombardment of the Gaza frontier settlements was so intense and indiscriminate that they burned to death many Israeli detainees along with the Palestinian fighters.
Major’s Graeme’s suggestion seems to be confirmed by an earlier, graphic video posted by Israel of a bombed out car containing charred corpses.
Israel’s foreign ministry claimed that the video proved Hamas used the “same tactics” as “ISIS terrorists.” The insinuation was that Hamas had burned prisoners alive in the same way that ISIS burned a caged Jordanian pilot to death in 2015.
But the corpses in the video appear to have been instantly incinerated by a massive bomb blast. Two of the incinerated corpses – likely Israeli detainees – had been sitting in the back seat at the moment of impact. The bodies appear frozen in seering, but instant, pain.
The car also shows signs of having been bombed from the air, with the roof completely twisted and destroyed.A video of several similar airstrikes was posted online by the Israeli military on the morning of 7 October. The post claimed that the vehicles were “targets of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.”
If those vehicles contained Israeli detainees in the custody of Palestinian fighters returning to Gaza, it is likely that all were killed by Israel – but then added to the death toll of Israelis “murdered by Hamas.”
Since 7 October, a growing body of evidence has been reported in Hebrew indicating that a significant though undetermined number of Israelis were killed by Israeli forces during the 7 October assault.translated into English by The Electronic Intifada on 11 November.
Israeli outlet Ynet quoted the commander of an Israeli helicopter squadron who said that on 7 October the air force sent more than two dozen attack helicopters – as well as Elbit drones – to shoot all along the Gaza frontier using Hellfire missiles and machine guns.
According to Ynet’s account of a preliminary assessment by the air force, “it was very difficult to distinguish between terrorists and [Israeli] soldiers or civilians” but that he instructed his pilots “to shoot at everything they see in the area of the fence” with Gaza anyway.
“The frequency of fire at the thousands of terrorists was enormous at the start, and only at a certain point did the pilots begin to slow their attacks and carefully choose the targets,” the paper reported, citing an Israeli Air Force investigation.
The justification for this apparently indiscriminate assault was “to stop the deluge of terrorists and the murderous masses that flowed into Israeli territory through the holes in the fence.”
But given that Palestinian fighters were returning to Gaza with Israeli detainees at exactly the same time that other Palestinians were still arriving from Gaza that day, shooting at “everything” in the area of the fence would necessarily include Israeli detainees.
According to the air force, in the first four hours his pilots “attacked about 300 targets, most in Israeli territory.”
The Supernova rave was also very close to the frontier fence – between it and the nearby Israeli settlement of Kibbutz Be’eri.Israel initially claimed that 260 Israelis had died there. This number later rose to 364.
On Saturday a police source confirmed for the first time that Israel had killed some of its own people at the rave on 7 October
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a police investigation had concluded that an Israeli “combat helicopter that arrived to the scene and fired at terrorists there apparently also hit some festival participants.”
A second anonymous police source criticized Haaretz and appeared to row back the statement the following day, but did not deny that Israel had killed some Israelis.
Israeli footage released the same day as the Ynet article referred to above showed what the air force claimed were attacks on “Palestinian terrorists infiltrating into Israel on the morning of October 7.”
The footage seems to show wildly indiscriminate airstrikes on multiple civilian cars, similar to the one shown in the graphic video of the incinerated corpses, as well as machine gun fire on people fleeing and walking on foot.
The plowed open field in the video looks very similar to other footage posted online of Israeli rave-goers fleeing from the Supernova event.
With Israel’s genocidal campaign against Gaza having claimed the lives of at least 14,000 Palestinians, Israeli detainees in Gaza have also fallen victim to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing there.
The armed wing of Hamas says that 60 Israelis have been killed by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza so far.
In the South African YouTube series, Major Graeme explains the military rationale.
“With all the difficulty and the pain that a decision like that entails, the Israeli army is continuing as if there are no hostages,” he said. Israel “just cannot afford to … allow the Hamas to successfully use those [Israeli] human shields … it’s not happening. So that’s it.”
He also said that “certain controls and limitations” on Israeli airstrikes had been removed.
Major Graeme may have been referencing a longstanding and secretive Israeli military doctrine known as the Hannibal Directive, named after an ancient Cartheaginian general who poisoned himself rather than be captured.
Israel established the doctrine to discourage Arab resistance fighters from capturing Israeli soldiers that could later be exchanged in negotiated prisoner swaps. In 2011, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a single captured Israeli solider.
There was increased global scrutiny of the Hannibal Directive after it was used to kill an Israeli soldier during the 2014 invasion of Gaza. In 2016 the Israeli army said that “the way the order as it is understood today” would be canceled. “This move was not necessarily a full change in policy but a clarification,” The Times of Israel reported.
But the doctrine now appears to have been revived.
Speaking in Hebrew to a Haaretz podcast, air force reserve Colonel Nof Erez said that what happened near the fence was a “mass Hannibal” and that they had drilled similar scenarios for 20 years.
Israeli ground forces also killed many Israeli civilians.
The first evidence to come to light was the testimony of Yasmin Porat, a survivor of Kibbutz Be’eri, one of dozens of Israeli settlements along the frontier with Gaza that Palestinian fighters assaulted on 7 October.
An attendee of the Supernova rave, Porat escaped to nearby Be’eri soon after the assault began.
She and about a dozen other Israelis were taken captive by Palestinian fighters who, she insisted, “did not abuse us. They treated us very humanely.”
Porat explained that their goal “was to kidnap us to Gaza. Not to murder us.” The fighters apparently intended to release them after one day.
The detainees were permitted to sit outside to await the arrival of hostage negotiators. The Palestinians, it seems, wanted a negotiated exit.
But with the arrival of special forces, known as the YAMAM, things quickly went south.
The “negotiators” announced their presence with a hail of surprise gunfire.
“Suddenly there was a volley of bullets at us from the YAMAM. We all started running to find cover,” Porat told Israeli TV.
Porat insisted that the indiscriminate gunfire “eliminated everyone, including the hostages because there was very, very heavy crossfire.” She saw corpses on the ground.
The ensuing gun battle lasted half an hour, culminating in two tank shells being shot into the house where they had been held. Porat herself only survived because she had developed a connection with a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian fighter who ultimately surrendered.
It seems that some unintentional “friendly fire” incidents occurred in the chaotic Israeli response to the 7 October offensive.
But there are indications that the Israeli military’s slaughter of Israeli civilians may also have been the result of calculated policy – or as Major Graeme put it, “continuing as if there are no hostages.”
Lieutenant Colonel Salman Habaka rushed to Kibbutz Be’eri with two tanks that morning.
“I arrived in Be’eri to see Brigadier General Barak Hiram and the first thing he asks me is to fire a shell into a house,” he said, according to The Guardian. “We went from house to house to free the hostages. And that’s how the fighting was until the evening. In the kibbutz and in the streets.”
The battle for Kibbutz Be’eri lasted for two days – ending only on the evening of Monday 9 October.
During that time, according to Haaretz (in an article which, again, was only published in Hebrew) the Israeli commanders in Be’eri “made difficult decisions – including shelling houses with all their occupants inside in order to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages.”
This suggests there was a calculated decision by Israeli officers to “eliminate” the Israeli detainees rather than let them fall into Palestinian hands in Gaza where they could be used as leverage in prisoner negotiations.
According to The Guardian, 108 residents of Kibbutz Be’eri were killed during the assault. “The bodies of the dead,” the newspaper explained after an army-led media tour on 10 October, “were brought and laid out to await collection” in the kibbutz’s communal dining hall.
But according to Major Graeme in the 15 October YouTube video, “a large number” of Israeli detainees were initially held alive by Hamas in the Be’eri dining hall.
“The dining room was stormed by the special forces,” he explained. “From what I understand, the majority of the hostages were killed in this attempt to rescue them. They only rescued four … I think it was 14 who were killed” there.
Israel’s brutal and indiscriminate military tactics in Kibbutz Be’eri were repeated in other Gaza frontier settlements.The Electronic Intifada conducted a review of every video and photo posted to X (formerly Twitter) between 7 and 27 October by three official Israeli accounts: @Israel, @IDF and @IsraelMFA. We also conducted an extensive review of mainstream media reports about the assault on Kibbutz Be’eri and other Gaza frontier settlements.
We found a wealth of visual evidence to back up the accounts of Yasmin Porat and others that the Israeli military attacked their own settlements.
These important indications that Israel killed its own civilians are usually buried beneath layers of official Israeli atrocity propaganda blaming Hamas.
The Israeli army treated the frontier settlement of Kfar Azza (Hebrew for “Gaza Village”) in a similarly brutal fashion as Kibbutz Be’eri.
A video report posted by The Washington Post on 10 October briefly revealed two destroyed buildings in the settlement, both of which appear to have been shelled by tanks.
Israel says that Hamas fighters burned down buildings in the settlements. Although other buildings in the video do appear to have been burned out, at least two of the destroyed buildings have instead been reduced wholly or partly to rubble.
One has been almost totally flattened, in a strikingly similar fashion to the Israeli airstrikes currently annihilating Gaza.
The extent of the destruction cannot be adequately explained by fires or by the light weaponry that Palestinian fighters were armed with that day – rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and, in a few cases, truck-mounted machine guns.By contrast, it can be explained by the type of weaponry known to have been used by Israel: tank shells, Hellfire missiles fired from more than two dozen Apache helicopters.
These helicopters are also armed with 30mm machine guns which fire shells each of which is “like a hand grenade” as Israel’s Ynet put it. These devastating guns designed to destroy tanks and capable of firing about 600 rounds per minute, are seen demonstrated in the video above.
On 7 October, “28 fighter helicopters shot over the course of the day all of the ammunition in their bellies, in renewed runs to rearm,” Ynet reported.
Israel’s human shields
Why did Hamas strike at Kibbutz Be’eri and 21 other Israeli settlements, bases and military outposts in the first place?
To understand that we have to consider both immediate history and the past 141 years of expulsion and genocide perpetrated by the Zionist colonization project in Palestine.
Not only are Israel’s frontier settlements all built on Palestinian land, but they are often also used as bases to station troops fighting in Israel’s recurring military assaults on Gaza.
In his book, My Golani Major Graeme explained how, in 1995, he and his army unit were stationed in “our quarters at Kibbutz Kfar Azza.”
During Israel’s war against Lebanon in July 2006, he was ordered to take his battalion to Kibbutz Sassa in the north. During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza – which killed 2,251 people, including 551 children – his brigade’s forward headquarters was based “not far from the kibbutzim of Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha,” both next to the Gaza fence and both assaulted on 7 October.
The reason the Gaza frontier settlements were founded in the first place was to contain and repress the massive civilian population around Gaza, most of whom, since 1948, are now refugees. These settlements – including the allegedly socialist kibbutzes – have always been an integral part of Israel’s military strategy.
As Haaretz correspondent and Kibbutz Nahal Oz resident Amir Tibon explained recently, “we protect the border, and [the government] protect us.”
The kibbutzes are effectively human shields for Israel.
One of them, founded in 1951, is even named “Magen” – literally Hebrew for “Shield.”
Magen, and three other kibbutzes, were built on the land of the destroyed Palestinian village of Ma’in Abu Sitta. Prominent Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta was in 1948 forced out of the village by Zionist forces aged 10.
What explains Israel’s willingness – indeed, its desire – to see Israelis killed rather than end up in Palestinian custody?
It starts at the top.
Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich urged the cabinet soon after 7 October to “hit Hamas brutally and not take the matter of the captives into significant consideration.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with family members of Israelis in Palestinian detention soon after. The group pressured him to negotiate. But four unknown people suddenly joined the meeting. One reportedly said that he was ready to pay with the life of his captive daughter.
It later turned out that the mystery visitors were West Bank settlers planted by Netanyahu’s office. Israeli journalist Noga Tarnopolsky named the man as the leader of a far-right organization, who, she said, had no captive daughter.
In a video report that was widely viewed online CNN’s Clarissa Ward tearfully interviewed Thomas Hand, an Irish-born settler who arrived in Be’eri 30 years ago. A distraught Hand recounted his elation after being told by Israeli authorities that his eight-year-old daughter Emily had been found dead.
“I went ‘Yes!’ and smiled … if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death.”
Israeli authorities later changed their assessment. Thankfully, Emily is now thought to be alive.
Another resident of Kibbutz Be’eri made an equally grim resolution. Or Yelin – the son of a former local council leader – told Israel’s i24 News channel that he and his wife agreed that they would rather he stab her to death with a kitchen knife than be captured alive by Hamas.
All this is backed to the hilt by the United States government.
President Joe Biden has reportedly indicated to Netanyahu that the return of the Israeli prisoners alive – even those who are US citizens – is very much optional.
“What I have indicated to him is that if that’s possible, to get these folks out safely, that’s what he should do. It’s their decision,” Biden said.
The villa in the jungle
Who really was responsible for the civilian deaths in Kibbutz Be’eri and the other frontier settlements is no abstract historical question.
Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza has wiped about 14,000 Palestinians off the face of the earth so far. Some 40 percent are children.
The United States and most European governments are fully backing this genocide.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell visited the remains of Kibbutz Be’eri for an Israeli army propaganda tour last week. The Spanish socialist actually volunteered on a kibbutz decades ago.
“Nothing justifies killing women, children, elderly people or abducting them from their homes,” he said.The man who infamously divided the planet between Europe’s “garden” and the “jungle” of the rest of the world was lending his support to the Israeli entity, the self-proclaimed “villa in the jungle.”
He had no regard for the dead women, children and elderly of Palestine, not to mention the men. Neither did he mention the nearly 7,000 Palestinians currently being held hostage in Israeli jails, many without charge or trial.
They broke the rules of both the “garden” and the “villa.”
Or Yelin’s father Haim took similar umbrage to the resistance: “They walked around Be’eri like they owned the place,” the former leader of the local regional council said.
That the sons of the Gaza Strip – 80 percent of whose people are the descendents of refugees from Israel’s 1948 Nakba of the Palestinians – do actually own the land he lives on never seemed to occur to him.
Speaking on Israeli TV recently, another Be’eri resident spelled out the genocidal logic of Zionism in stark terms.
“I’ll return to Be’eri only when the last Palestinian is annihilated. I don’t care if it’s children, elderly, people on crutches that came to pillage, I don’t care. At this moment I have mercy for no one.”
“It’s just us. Just us.”
With additional research by Ali Abunimah, Michael F. Brown, Tamara Nassar, Jon Elmer, Maureen Murphy and Refaat Alareer.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.