How an Israeli colonel invented the burned babies lie to justify genocide

Atrocities against babies that the head of the Israeli army’s national rescue unit alleged were committed by Hamas fighters when they attacked an Israeli kibbutz on 7 October were in fact lurid tales of the officer’s own invention, intended to provide a pretext for genocide in the Gaza Strip, and to protect the massacre’s actual perpetrators: Israel’s own soldiers, acting on the orders of a top general.

As Israeli forces recaptured territories temporarily taken by Hamas earlier that day, the commander of the national rescue unit of the Israeli army’s Home Front Command Colonel Golan Vach led the recovery of corpses from the region, which spanned an area of hundreds of square kilometers. A week later, Vach began asserting that Hamas fighters had brutally executed “eight babies” in a single house in Kibbutz Be’eri.

“They were concentrated there and they killed them and they burned them,” Vach told a throng of reporters on 14 October, pointing through a smashed window into the charred living room of kibbutz resident Pessi Cohen.

According to the only two captives who survived the bloodbath, however, a total of 13 civilians died at Cohen’s home, including Cohen herself, and none were babies or toddlers.

All of them were middle-aged or older, save for adolescent twins taken captive from next door.

None of the 13 civilians killed were executed and only one of them was certainly killed by Hamas fighters who conquered the kibbutz house by house on the morning of 7 October, the survivors say. The remaining 12 were killed hours later during Israel’s counteroffensive to reconquer the territory.

After heated exchanges over the phone with the commander of a Qassam fighting force of dozens dug in at the Cohen home in Be’eri, Israeli police arrived at the home in the middle of the afternoon with guns blazing.

At least two captives were killed in the hours of crossfire that ensued, but many if not all of the remaining 10 captives, along with all the remaining Qassam fighters, were killed in the final stroke of the battle, either incinerated to death or torn up from the shrapnel caused by two tank shells Israeli forces fired directly at the house.

Israel kills its own: the Hannibal directive

A December investigation by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that Israel implemented against its own civilians captured on 7 October a version of its Hannibal directive: Israel used overwhelming lethal force even at the risk of killing Israelis along with their Palestinian captors, in order to avoid leaving them alive to be held captive in Gaza, and to avoid having to pay a steep political price for their return.

Although Israel’s application of the Hannibal directive was widespread on 7 October, its implementation at the Cohen home stands out because more captives were killed there than in any other single structure on that day. One high-ranking Israeli officer called the army’s actions there an “exponential Hannibal.”

And unlike other Israeli captives who were killed en route to Gaza, these 12 civilians were still at Be’eri, kilometers away from the Strip, and just a few hundred meters away from the kibbutz gate, where hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers were then encamped, waiting for orders.

In February, following campaigning by relatives of the civilians killed at the Cohen home, the Israeli army opened an investigation into the incident, and the demolition of the house was postponed for the duration of the probe.

A relative of three of the civilians Israel incinerated by tank shell inside the Cohen house – 12-year old Hatsroni twins Yanai and Liel and their 73-year-old great-aunt and guardian Ayala – complained to Israel’s national broadcaster Kan that Israel’s actions on the battlefield were a failure from a cost-benefit analysis.

“I am willing to pay a price: that we will kill our civilians in exchange for something else,” Omri Shifroni told Kan. “But what is the something else? To advance quickly? Why? Why?! Did we with certainty save anyone by shooting a shell here?”

The army denied in March that its officers knowingly killed captives at the Cohen house. “Any attempt to castigate and blame IDF soldiers and commanders as if they purposefully harmed civilians is mistaken and absolutely baseless,” it told Israeli broadcaster Kan.

But in late December the ranking officer who led Israel’s reconquest of the kibbutz – 99th Infantry Division commander and then commander-in-waiting of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram – admitted to The New York Times that he ordered an Israeli tank to fire shells at the house, though he knew there were still-living Israeli captives inside. “Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties,” Hiram recalled ordering the tank commander.

The revelation that Hiram’s orders on the battlefield ended the lives of Israeli civilians stirred outrage amongst some secular Israelis. “The set of values of messianists and fascists – who apparently prefer the land and killing the enemy over the sanctity of life – is creeping into the army. It is worrisome and doubly disturbing when our hostages are still being held in the Gaza Strip,” wrote Israeli activist Nava Rozolyo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

This criticism in turn triggered a wave of widespread support for Hiram and his application of the Hannibal directive on Israeli civilians in double digits.

“Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, and all religious Zionists, are accused of preferring land and killing the enemy over the sanctity of life,” wrote West Bank settler council chair Shlomo Neeman in Israeli magazine BeSheva. “Is land more important than life? Yes. Land is more important than life.”

“The love of these patches of land is inscribed in the heart of the entire Jewish people,” Neeman wrote. “This is not a value of ‘a son of Religious Zionism,’ it is a value for sons of Zionism, as it is for the overwhelming majority of the Jews in this land.”

Hiram went on to command some of Israel’s invasion forces that since 8 October have killed more than 36,000 Palestinian civilians, wounded over 80,000 more, and destroyed every facet of life in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals, bakeries, mosques, schools and universities.

Gaza’s al-Israa University, the Strip’s last standing institute of higher learning, was plundered of its historical treasures, used for months as a position from which to snipe at passing Palestinian civilians, and then in January blown up entirely on Hiram’s orders.

Hiram was later censured for breaking the army chain of command and ordering the demolition without the explicit advance approval of his superior, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman. “If you had submitted the request to collapse the university for my approval, I would have approved it,” said Finkelman, head of Israel’s Southern Command, according to Israel army radio.

If Hiram’s rise in the ranks is impeded over these incidents, he will likely still be rewarded, not punished, for the decisions he has made on the battlefield. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already interviewed Hiram to be his next military secretary, Israeli daily Haaretz reported in March.

Whatever Hiram’s fate, it is unlikely that the Israeli army will either fully endorse his explanations of the “mass Hannibal” incident at Pessi Cohen’s house, or reveal all it knows about what really happened there on 7 October, because to do so would force it to undercut a pillar of Israeli propaganda about the events of that day: that Hamas heartlessly executed Israeli babies – a lie promoted by Hiram, but first invented by the commander of the Israeli army’s home front national rescue unit, Colonel Golan Vach.

Pessi Cohen house investigation begins immediately

Israel’s probe of the bloodbath at the Cohen house did not begin in January, four months after the battle. It actually started within 48 hours. Already on Monday 9 October, Israeli investigators collected genetic material from the family of one of the captives killed there.

An immediate army investigation was necessary to identify with certainty the names of the dead. The Israeli tank fire ordered by Hiram not only killed every last human in and around the building that night, save one Israeli civilian, it also disfigured many of their corpses to the point that they were very difficult to identify.

But before Israel could process the DNA it collected, confirm whose it was, and use that data to piece together its account of what happened at Pessi Cohen’s home on 7 October, the basic facts of the incident were publicly established when one of the only two Israeli captives to survive the battle recounted her experiences in a live television interview later that same day.

On 9 October, 44-year old Yasmin Porat recalled to Israel’s Channel 12 how she fled along with her partner from the Supernova rave and took refuge in Be’eri. The couple was found after some hours by Qassam fighters, and then held with a group of 14 other captives at the house of kibbutz resident Pessi Cohen.

During their hours of captivity, Cohen’s sister Hannah related to her how from the group of 15 captives, the Qassam fighters had killed only her husband, Yitzhak Siton, “during the break-in.”

“When they tried to enter, [Siton] tried to prevent them from entering and grabbed the door. They shot at the door and he was killed,” Porat recalled being told. “They did not execute them.”

Once they were subdued, the Israelis suffered no more ill-treatment at the hands of the Palestinian fighters, Porat has repeatedly told interviewers. “They did not abuse us. They treated us very humanely,” Porat said to Kan radio. “They give us something to drink here and there. When they see we are nervous they calm us down. It was very frightening but no one treated us violently.”

Porat escaped with her life when Qassam commander Hasan Hamduna negotiated over the phone his surrender to the Israeli forces and crossed over to their lines part way through the battle, bringing Porat over to the Israeli side.

Hamduna was immediately subdued, and Porat then explained to a series of Israeli army commanders on site, the last one being Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, that dozens of Qassam fighters and around a dozen Israeli captives were still alive in and around the house. “Why are you shooting so much?” Porat recalls asking the officers. “I did not understand why they are shooting so much if they understand that there are hostages here.”

Two days after Porat’s first video interview, the Israeli army issued the first findings of its investigation of the Cohen house “mass Hannibal” incident, but only to the family of a single Israeli civilian killed there: Porat’s partner, Tal Katz.

The families of the other 11 Israelis killed there would not be officially informed by the state that their loved ones had died until the following week or the following month. Most were told between six and seven days later, while the family of the captives burnt the worst – Liel Hatsroni and her great-aunt and guardian Ayala – were told only about six weeks later.

But before any of those Israeli families learned the bitter news about their loved ones, authorities first informed the family of a male civilian incinerated almost entirely by Israeli tank shelling, save for his teeth. Those remains matched DNA collected from his family two days earlier on 9 October.

Of the 13 civilians killed at the Cohen home, the one person Israel prioritized over all others, ironically, was no Israeli Jew, but rather a Palestinian Muslim: 22-year-old Suhayb al-Razim from occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel first identified the bodies of al-Razim and Katz, and informed their families a week before any of the others, because they were the only captives killed at the Cohen House who were not known residents of the kibbutz, or their close relatives.

Katz sought shelter on the kibbutz with his partner Yasmin Porat after fleeing the Nova rave, while minibus driver al-Razim, who had ferried partygoers to the festival site, was caught there by Qassam fighters and brought to Be’eri, to translate between them and their Hebrew-speaking captives.

Once the Israeli army had established the identities of all the civilians who died at the Cohen home and what they were doing there, it began informing the media about the battle, but the story it told the press was significantly different from the facts established by Yasmin Porat, the first survivor to speak out.

On 11 October, General Hiram told Israeli online news outlet Walla that forces under his command saved four Israeli civilians held hostage there, when in fact only two survived the battle: Porat and one other woman, 70-year-old Hadas Dagan.

Hiram also presented different figures for the total number of captives and captors, putting the total number of civilians on the battlefield at 18 and the total number of Palestinians at 20, though the actual figures were 15 civilian captives held by at least 40 Qassam fighters. He also claimed to have, upon recapturing the kibbutz, found “babies shot in their carriages.”

All lists compiled of Israelis who died on 7 October and its immediate aftermath reveal that no baby was found shot in a carriage in any of the areas captured by Hamas on that day.

Hiram was not the first Israeli officer to accuse Hamas of infanticides that did not occur, and he would not be the last. Three days after Hiram’s first round of interviews, the army’s version of the battle at Pessi Cohen’s house would change again, this time taking a sick new twist.

First claims of baby beheadings quickly discredited

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, through his aides, began in the first few days after 7 October to accuse Hamas of executing Israeli babies. Netanyahu’s spokespeople insisted the Israeli fatalities included babies and toddlers who had their “heads decapitated,” and a high-ranking Israeli officer told Israel’s i24 television that Palestinian fighters “cut heads off children.”

The claim of the officer, Major Davidi Ben-Zion, quickly lost some credibility, however, when it emerged that he is the deputy head of the Israeli settlers’ council in the northern West Bank who has called for Palestinians to be ethnically cleansed.

In February, Ben-Zion called in a social media post to “wipe out” a Palestinian village with over 5,000 residents, Huwwara.

But the Israeli allegation that Hamas fighters chopped off children’s heads was mainly undermined by the total lack of any evidence to support it.

In fact, no photograph or video of an Israeli child decapitated on that day has ever been made public, either by the Israeli government or anyone else.

On 11 October, the Israeli army said it would not provide any forensic evidence to substantiate this charge of infanticide: “I don’t have an evidence and I’m not looking for one [sic],” army spokesperson Major Nir Dinar told Business Insider.

The accusation seemed to rapidly unravel under scrutiny: The following day a CNN report treated the claim with some skepticism, quoting an Israeli government official who walked back the definite claim of decapitated children.

“There have been cases of Hamas militants carrying out beheadings,” the unnamed official said. “However, we cannot confirm if the victims were men or women, soldiers or civilians, adults or children,” he added.

The narrative suffered another major blow when Joe Biden claimed falsely to have seen photos of “terrorists beheading children,” only for the White House to have to admit afterwards that neither the president nor any other US official had seen such pictures and that the administration had no independent confirmation of the claims from the Netanyahu government.

Senior officer conjures up new claim

Portrait of man in military uniform from shoulders up

Colonel Golan Vach, who headed the Israeli military’s main rescue unit, fabricated atrocity tales of burned babies to justify genocide in Gaza.

Yotan Ronen ActiveStills

Into the breach entered a new first-person testimonial of a decapitated baby, this time from a witness with a higher rank, a first responder with an impeccable record, accustomed to representing Israel on the world stage.

That man was Colonel Golan Vach who had commanded the national rescue unit of the Israeli army’s Home Front Command for six years, from 2017 until this January.

Vach also led the recovery of Israeli casualties on 7 October and in the days that followed.

Instead of ordering that the collection of bodies be carried out by the troops under his command who had been trained by the army for this task, Vach chose to subcontract the morbid work to an amateur outside organization that lacked the necessary skill set but shared his religious worldview: ZAKA.

In October, Vach claimed that ZAKA took on the burden of collecting corpses because other groups refused to do so. “No one was willing to enter those places, but [ZAKA] was there,” Vach told the group Israel Defense and Security Forum in the days that followed the 7 October attacks. According to an officer in the Home Front Command unit trained to do the grisly work, however, his superiors “begged” their commanders to receive the assignment they had been trained for – but they were rebuffed.

Three months later, Vach gave a different explanation for ZAKA’s involvement. “The national rescue unit’s officer in charge of collecting wounded and the dead is also the special operations officer of ZAKA, Chaim Otmazgin. He is an excellent officer and also a good friend. In my opinion he is also the top professional in the field today in the State of Israel,” Vach declared in an interview.

“Essentially, ZAKA was there due to Chaim being an officer in the [national rescue] unit,” Vach explained. “He took a chain of ZAKA volunteers to the sites where we were: the nature party on the night of 7 October and in the days that followed Be’eri, Kfar Aza, Nir Oz, and then all the other sites of course.”

In May, the Associated Press revealed that an Israeli teenager killed in the 7 October attack on Kibbutz Be’eri had not been sexual assaulted by Palestinian fighters, as Otmazgin had repeatedly alleged in the Israeli parliament and the international press.

When finally confronted with the facts half a year later by AP, Otmazgin retracted his lurid claim, saying, “At the end, it turned out to be different, so I corrected myself.”

Founded by accused child rapist

ZAKA is one of Israel’s prominent emergency service providers that, astoundingly, was founded by a Jewish messianist arrested for terrorism in the 1980s, though certainly not the only one.

The difficult work of preparing bodies for burial is an important public service that the Israeli state has largely farmed out to a private organization founded by a religious terrorist, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav.

In the 1980s, Meshi-Zahav led Keshet, a gang of ultra-Orthodox zealots that terrorized Jerusalem locals, firebombing bus stops, stores and private homes to punish electricity use on the Sabbath, the display of photographs of females and the selling of secular newspapers.

For allegedly violating Jewish burial laws, they harassed and threatened to kill doctors and archaeologists. Scared straight after members of his family were arrested over their gang membership, he reinvented himself as an elite state-sponsored first responder.

Meshi-Zahav founded and then for three decades ran ZAKA, an organization that collects bodies for burial that have been torn asunder by natural disaster or human violence.

Yoav Gallant clasps the hands of Yehuda Meshi-Zahav

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the accused child rapist who founded ZAKA, the “rescue” group whose members fabricated multiple 7 October atrocity tales, had access to Israel’s highest officials. Yoav Gallant, then education minister, congratulates Meshi-Zahav on his selection for the Israel Prize, in a still from a video posted on Facebook by Gallant himself on 2 March 2021. Days later police would formally begin investigating longstanding accusations of child rape against Meshi-Zahav. (via Facebook

Meshi-Zahav ended his own life, weeks after police opened an investigation in 2021 into allegations that he used power he accrued – first as head of Keshet, then as head of ZAKA – to commit violent sex crimes against adults and children, male and female, spanning four decades.

Meshi-Zahav’s sex crime spree is alleged to have been an open secret in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities, with some calling him the “Haredi Jeffrey Epstein.”

Still, when a critical mass of accusers finally received traction in the Israeli media, the ZAKA commander of special operations that Colonel Golan Vach deputized to oversee the retrieval of corpses after the battles of 7 October did not distance himself from his boss.

Rather, Chaim Otmazgin publicly defended him, claiming the extensive evidence against Meshi-Zahav had been acquired via extortion. “The last thing he is capable of doing is hurting others,” Otmazgin insisted to Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Meshi-Zahav’s transformation from terrorist to the confidant of a head of government strikingly paralleled that of a convicted bomber who sits on ZAKA’s board of directors to this day: Jerusalem Rabbinical Council Chairman Nathan “Noose” Nathanson. In 1980, Nathanson was part of a terrorist cell that bombed the legs off of Nablus Mayor Bassem Shakaa.

Nathanson and his Jewish Underground comrades jailed for shooting and bombing to death Hebron University students received widespread backing from Jewish leaders in Israel and the US, including Simon Wiesenthal Center founder and president Rabbi Marvin Hier. The prison sentences of the Jewish Underground terrorists were later cut short by Israeli President Chaim Herzog, father of the current Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

In addition to overseeing ZAKA’s operations, the unrepentant Nathanson has for years been a close adviser of former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett has also amplified the lie that Liel Hatsroni was torched to death on 7 October by anti-Semitic Palestinian fighters, and the accompanying demand that Israel be allowed to avenge her by torching Gaza. “She was murdered just because she’s Jewish,” Bennett tweeted in November.

After Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram admitted to The New York Times that he ordered the tank shelling at Pessi Cohen’s house “even at the cost of civilian casualties,” Bennett returned to X to defend him from criticism over his decision to implement the Hannibal directive against a dozen Israeli civilians.

“Stop. Just stop immediately, before this line catches on,” Bennett tweeted in Hebrew.

After 7 October, ZAKA volunteers deputized by Vach to collect corpses did not bother to document in writing what they had witnessed on the battlefield. They soon started to claim, however, that Palestinians carried out particularly barbaric crimes on that day, maybe the most revolting of which was the allegation that Palestinian fighters removed a fetus from a woman’s womb and stabbed it dead in the head.

Although that allegation has been thoroughly disproven and discredited as the invention of ZAKA’s southern region commander Yossi Landau, it has been repeated as fact across the globe.

Colonel blamed bodies burned by Israel on Hamas

Appalling as they are, the atrocity tales authored by Landau and other ZAKA volunteers pale in comparison to those invented by Colonel Golan Vach, who commanded the Israeli army’s corpse recovery operation on 7 October and whose testimonies have formed the basis for Israel’s allegation that Hamas murdered – and brutally burned to death – eight Israeli babies on that day.

On 12 October, Vach first asserted to journalists in an online briefing that he personally recovered from a home in Be’eri the body of “one baby with its head cut.” When reporters on the call asked him for photographs of the baby and for more details about how they came to be decapitated, Vach became irritated.

The following day, on 13 October, Vach claimed that he had personally recovered the bodies of multiple infants killed on 7 October. “I found some babies with their heads cut, which I personally evacuated,” Vach told Jewish Insider. “I know that some people are asking for proof, and I did take photographs, but I could not take a picture of the baby, I just could not do it.”

To look at a picture of any person, young or old, and determine that their head isn’t in the correct location is a trivial matter that requires no special skill set. The journalists asking Vach for photographic evidence of a decapitated baby were asking valid questions that could not easily be dismissed.

For the decapitated baby story to be believed, therefore, the tale would need to be amended in a way that would make it impossible for reporters to verify, even from photographic evidence.

The following day, on 14 October, Vach gave a tour of Kibbutz Be’eri to dozens of journalists, local and foreign. There, Vach stood in front of a scorched house and claimed that he had personally removed the body of a decapitated baby from inside the home on 7 October.

Mainstream media outlets in the United States, including The New York Times, and around the world, took Vach’s word at face value and began reporting his infanticide allegation as fact. “The baby was beheaded,” Vach told Canada’s Global News. “The stories of beheaded babies are true.”

In his live retelling of the tale, however, Vach claimed that he had found the decapitated baby in the arms of a woman with bullet wounds in her back – and that both she and the baby had been horribly scorched by fire.

“I found a mother lying, protecting her baby, and she was shot in the back, and the baby was beheaded,” Vach told the scrum of reporters.

“Was it a boy or a girl?” an Israeli journalist asked Vach. “I didn’t see, it was burnt,” he replied in Hebrew. “Oh, burnt too? An actual baby?” the journalist pressed. “Yes,” Vach responded, nodding and pointing to the home behind him. “You can see the house.”

Burning causes severe disfigurement, so determining the identity of a person who has been torched to death is often impossible from only a photograph. Still, Vach offered no photographic evidence to substantiate his claim.

From that day forward, however, he would be believed regardless. Thus Vach continued to bring groups of journalists to the same scorched house to tell his sordid tale.

“A woman lying here. It was still burning, so she could be recognized. She was shot in the back and she was protecting a baby. A small baby, I don’t know exactly, one or two years and the baby was decapitated. I carried the baby in my own hands,” Vach told i24 News two weeks later.

In the home where Vach claimed to have recovered these two bodies, Palestinian fighters had in fact killed two Israelis, also named Cohen but unrelated to Pessi. One of the victims was Milla Cohen – the only Israeli baby killed in her home on 7 October, in her mother’s arms.

But the parent shot to death at that home was not Milla’s mother, Sandra, but her father, Ohad Cohen.

“They sat down in the safe room for hours. They heard terrorists inside the house. Gunshots entered the door. And Milla unfortunately was murdered immediately,” a family friend later told Israeli NGO Darkenu. “Ohad opened the window, rolled down outside and the terrorists came back and murdered Ohad.”

Sandra Cohen was hit by Palestinian gunfire herself, the woman said, but she and her two sons managed to survive the ordeal.

Milla Cohen died from gunfire shot through a closed door. She was not decapitated. Neither were she nor her mother Sandra torched. Colonel Golan Vach took Milla’s horrific homicide and inflated it into a libelous lie of grotesque proportions.

Portrait of smirking man in military uniform in front of burned out house

Colonel Golan Vach stands in front of the home of Ohad Cohen in Kibbutz Be’eri on 14 October 2023, where baby Milla Cohen was killed by gunfire through a closed door. Vach lied to media that Milla, the only Israeli baby to be killed in their home on 7 October, had been decapitated and burned.

Yotam Ronen ActiveStills

Israelis burned by Hiram said to be babies burned by Hamas

While Milla and Sandra Cohen were not burned by fire, many who died on 7 October were in fact torched beyond recognition.

In November, Israel revised its count of its citizens killed on that day from about 1,400 to about 1,200, after realizing that at least 200 of the people burned to death on that day were not Israelis, as they had first assumed, but in fact Palestinian fighters.

Such a miscount can only have happened on the part of Israel if its forces were firing on people without regard to whether they were Israelis or Palestinians.

Still, some of the people whose bodies were found burned did belong to Israeli citizens, and the largest known cluster of them was on the other side of the kibbutz, at the home of Pessi Cohen.

Vach also brought VIP visitors, journalists and top politicians to Pessi Cohen’s house, and there he has repeatedly reprised his claim to have personally retrieved the body of burned babies – not one but eight.

“Where you stand exactly were two couples lying. Two men, two women. Handcuffed. And inside this house were another 15 burned people. Among them eight babies,” Vach told a group of reporters on 14 October. “In this corner. They were concentrated there and they killed them and they burned them.”

Asked by an Anadolu reporter if he personally collected their corpses, Vach answered unequivocally in the affirmative. “I evacuated them,” he said, drawing out the “I” for emphasis.

When Golan Vach came to Pessi Cohen’s house to clear out the corpses within, he has said he saw the bodies of 19 Israeli civilians killed by Hamas, eight of whom were burned babies.

In fact, what lay before him were the ripped and charred remnants of one Palestinian civilian from Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinian fighters from Gaza, and a dozen Israeli civilians, only two of whom were adolescents, while the rest were middle aged or elderly. There was not a single baby or young child among them.

Except for Yitzhak Siton (who was shot by Hamas in its initial capture of the kibbutz) the blood of most – if not all – of the dead at the Pessi Cohen house lies on the hands of the Israeli commander who gave the order to shoot two tank shells at the house: Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram.

If Vach’s accusation that Qassam fighters executed and set on fire eight Israeli babies has no basis in truth, he is at least honest about why Cohen’s house was not only badly damaged by the battle, but left in a state of abject ruin.

“This destruction was cause[d by] our tanks’ attack,” Vach told the same Anadolu reporter. “Because they were blocked in these houses. And we needed to conquer back the whole settlement.”

Like Vach’s lie about recovering a burned Israeli baby at the house of Ohad Cohen, his lie about recovering eight burned Israeli babies at the house of Pessi Cohen was reported as fact in the United States and around the world.

The day after Vach invented the lie of eight burned babies at the Pessi Cohen house, Yasmin Porat retold her survival story to the Israeli press, this time to Kan radio. Again she explained how she and a group of Israelis that included no small children were violently captured by Hamas and held hostage at Pessi Cohen’s home, but thereafter treated humanely and neither executed nor harmed in any other way.

In a news segment published the following day, Vach fumbled in his retelling of the eight burned babies claim, inflating the number of Israeli corpses he allegedly collected for burial from in and around Pessi Cohen’s house.

When he debuted the claim on 14 October, Vach told dozens of journalists he collected 15 Israeli bodies from inside the house, and another four bodies from the lawn in front of it, making 19 bodies in total.

In another tour of the same site given on the same day, Vach paused for several seconds mid-sentence, apparently adding the latter two figures together in his mind, and then claimed that 15 was the number of Israeli adults killed by Qassam fighters inside the home, to which he added the eight babies he says he found there, making 23 bodies inside the house plus another four fatalities on the lawn outside the home, for a total of 27 dead Israelis.

“We found a family outside exactly where you’re standing right now,” he said. “They were lying here. Two couples: handcuffed and murdered. Two women, two men. But it was only the beginning of what we saw inside,” Vach said while standing in front of the Pessi Cohen house. “In this corner of this living room we find a concentration of eight babies, burned among 15 other people … in this living room and the next one” (emphasis added).

Only three days later, on 17 October, did Israel inform the families of the kibbutz residents held hostage there that their loved ones were in fact deceased.

But that was a week after the army already knew the identities of every civilian who died at the Pessi Cohen house. It was after both the general directly responsible for their deaths and the rescue unit chief who collected their bodies gave multiple interviews to the press lying about what happened there.

The only exception to Israel informing the families was the Hatsroni family: Pessi Cohen’s next door neighbor Ayala, and Liel, the great-niece she raised from birth, would not be officially declared dead for another month, because they had been utterly incinerated by Israeli tank fire, and even minute traces of their DNA proved elusive.

Israeli general amends battle tale to account for atrocities invented by rescue chief

Colonel Golan Vach’s new allegations of 19 and even 23 Israeli civilians murdered by Hamas at the Cohen home created a serious problem for General Hiram, who had ordered the tank shelling.

Vach’s tallies of the number of Israeli civilians killed there were up to 50 percent higher than the correct figures repeatedly reported by Yasmin Porat, who survived the bloodbath. Worse yet, Vach had introduced eight infants into the death toll – babies who had never existed.

Hiram then had no choice but to alter his rendition of events, inflating the figures he had divulged to the Israeli news outlet Walla two weeks earlier.

In a softball interview on 26 October with Ilana Dayan, the host of Israeli Channel 12’s prestigious investigative program Uvda, Hiram jacked up the number of Palestinian fighters he fought from 20 to 26 and increased his count of the Israeli civilians they supposedly killed from 14 to 16.

In that interview, Hiram also tacitly backed Vach’s claim that Hamas executed eight babies there, while amending their alleged cause of death from burning to shooting. “There we found eight children tied together and shot,” Hiram told Dayan.

Besides the lie about Hamas executing eight Israeli kids at the Cohen home, Hiram’s amended claims that his forces “saved about four” out of 20 civilians held hostage there and killed all 26 of their Palestinian captors remain at odds with the accounts of the battle’s only civilian survivors.

When a second civilian survivor Hadas Dagan broke her silence in a Channel 12 interview aired in early December, she confirmed Yasmin Porat’s account of the battle: at least 40 Palestinian fighters (not 20 or 26) held 15 civilians captive at the Cohen home, and just two Israels survived.

Of the two survivors, Porat was removed from the battlefield by Hasan Hamduna, commander of the Qassam forces, while Dagan outlived every civilian on the battlefield because she was shielded by Porat’s partner Tal Katz and her own husband Adi Dagan from the tank shelling that killed everyone else that remained in and around the house.

Hiram’s forces did not “wage a truly heroic battle” at the Cohen home, as Channel 12 journalist Dayan claimed. At no point in the hours-long battle did they carry out his alleged command to risk their lives and “burst inside to try to save the citizens.”

The new numbers Hiram fed to Channel 12 seem to have been an attempt to find a compromise between the atrocity tales invented by Israeli rescue chief Colonel Golan Vach and the embarrassing truth repeatedly told by the battle’s only civilian survivors, Yasmin Porat and Hadas Dagan.

Two months later, The New York Times published an article about the battles occurring at Be’eri on 7 October, including the fighting at the Cohen home.

The article correctly lists the number of civilians held hostage there and includes new reflections from the battle by Hiram, but makes no mention of his earlier interviews or his erroneous tallies. And while the Times piece incriminated Hiram for applying the Hannibal directive, causing the deaths of Israeli civilians, it also covered up his allegations of infanticide – allegations which were weaponized by the Israeli government to earn legitimacy for its genocidal post-7 October assault on Gaza.

Two days later, on Christmas Eve, The Electronic Intifada revealed that Hiram’s accounts of the battle were full of lies, and his claim that Palestinian fighters executed eight Israeli children there was a hideous blood libel.

Evidence-free atrocity tales

The testimonies of Hiram cannot be confirmed or denied by the tank unit commander who apparently carried out his order to fire tank shells at Pessi Cohen’s house, Lieutenant Colonel Salman Habaka – he died in November.

Habaka became the most senior Israeli officer slain in the invasion when he was ambushed in the Gaza Strip after answering a call to come to the aid of the Golani Brigade’s 13th battalion by the unit’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tomer Greenberg. Greenberg himself was killed in action in Gaza just over a week later.

Another soldier who operated the tank is still plagued by his memories of the battle’s conclusion.

“I went around with the thought: What am I, like, a murderer?” a soldier identified only as Y told Channel 12 in March. “You think you are coming to do your best, coming to defend the settlement, and then in retrospect it turns out that you killed citizens.”

Hiram’s numerous lies about the battle at the Be’eri home of Pessi Cohen were apparently attempts to shield himself from the consequences of his command decisions.

His hate for Palestinians is not suspect, however. He is a resident of the settlement of Tekoa near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, and in his Channel 12 interview, Hiram described the 7 October attacks not as “Hamas savagery” or even “Palestinian barbarism,” but as “Arab murderousness.”

Hiram’s hatred of Arabs did not begin on 7 October, according to Israelis who have known him from his youth. When his Haifa high school civics teacher tried to impart to her students democratic values, Hiram would retort with far-right talking points, or “Kahane-style comments,” according to one classmate.

“The positions Barak expressed regarding Arabs were extreme and generalizing. As his social standing was solid and he was endowed with extraordinary charisma, he swept up no small number of students,” recalled another classmate of Hiram. “On every issue that the teacher tried to convey a humanistic-liberal message, Barak would respond in a very contrarian manner.”

Hiram’s incessant hostility to Palestinians eventually drove the teacher to quit the class. The straw that broke the camel’s back, the classmate recalled, was a lesson about the 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre, when Israeli border police murdered 49 Palestinian citizens and wounded dozens more. “Barak said something insufferable and the teacher left the room in tears. It was then clear that she would no longer teach us,” the classmate recalled to Haaretz.

Hiram later lived and worked for years at Sde Bar, a field school for troubled Jewish youth in the occupied West Bank. Fifteen years ago, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that the school was infused with racism and that the students would regularly “rampage” against local Palestinians.

According to Maariv, the school’s founder-director Yossi Sadeh praised mass murderer of Palestinians Baruch Goldstein, and boasted that during his army service he himself “used to torture Arabs and skewer their legs with shards of glass.” When the racist abuse was revealed, Hiram – who had by then advanced in the army to the rank of captain – came to Sadeh’s defense, complaining that exposing his crimes ”put a price on Yossi’s head.”

Still, it is likely that Hiram’s main motive for lying about the events at Be’eri was to avoid repercussions for ending the lives of Israeli civilians in one of the most ghastly ways imaginable, burning them to death.

Protecting Hiram’s reputation is also the likely motive of the soldiers who fought under him in that battle and who in recent months have been praising him in the Israeli media.

“On 7 October I fought in Be’eri, I fired tank shells at terrorists in the kibbutz,” Lieutenant Colonel Guy Basson told Israel’s Channel 14 in an interview aired on 20 January, noting he was present at the battle at Pessi Cohen’s home “and saw things from up close.”

Asked to recall the worst scenes he saw on that day, Basson described Cohen’s house as “a day care” and said that inside it he saw “eight babies” that had been “slaughtered” by Palestinians.

After repeating Colonel Vach and General Hiram’s lie of eight executed Israeli babies, Basson then added his own flourish to the atrocity tale.

“Another image that struck me was when I saw Genia, RIP, an elderly woman from Kibbutz Be’eri, when I see the number tattooed on her arm,” Basson said. “She survived the Holocaust at Auschwitz, and in the end died in Kibbutz Be’eri.”

No such person lived or died at Be’eri on 7 October; the story was entirely of Basson’s invention.

After Israel daily Haaretz noted that Basson’s allegations of eight executed babies were false, the Israeli army said it had “no intention to describe a reality that didn’t happen, and we apologize if anyone was offended. We will set the record straight and clarify to all commanders involved in the media effort.”

Indeed, the next self-described veteran of the battle at the Pessi Cohen home to advocate on Hiram’s behalf in the media – one Colonel Ashi – made no mention of Israeli children of any age being shot, burned or abused there in any way – or even of being on the battlefield at all.

In fact, not only did Ashi fail to mention any Israeli babies burned to death at Pessi Cohen’s house – he also suggested that no Israelis had burned to death there at all. According to Ashi, all the civilians killed at the home were already dead by the time Hiram gave the order to fire the deadly tank shells.

“I did not think that there were still people alive there,” Ashi told Kan in an interview broadcast on 1 March. “To the best of my knowledge, the tank shell hit high, above the rafters of the house, so I really don’t think that anyone was injured from it. More than this: I was in the house afterwards, and here too: I don’t think that anyone was wounded from shooting the shell inside.”

Ashi’s account would seem to be utterly discredited by the testimonies of the only two civilians to survive the battle.

Yasmin Porat says that after leaving the Cohen house and crossing over to the Israeli lines an hour into the battle, she calmly explained to a sequence of army commanders, the final one being General Hiram himself, that there were about a dozen hostages left alive on the property.

Porat and Hadas Dagan both say that Liel Hatsroni screamed hysterically throughout the hours-long battle from start to finish. “When those two shells hit, she stopped screaming,” Porat recalled Dagan telling her after the battle. “There was silence then.”

“What Hadas described from inside the house was accurate,” confirmed Colonel Shlomo Pariente, another Israeli soldier who fought in the battle. “After that shell there was nothing more,” Pariente told Haaretz. “No battle, no shots, no nothing.”

When later confronted about the disparity between his statements and those of survivors Porat and Dagan, Ashi refused to clarify his comments, remarking to Haaretz: “I won’t tell you.”

Basson and Ashi likely lied about the battle at the Pessi Cohen house to try to shield from repercussions their superior officer Barak Hiram for applying the Hannibal directive on up to a dozen civilians.

Army rescue chief Colonel Golan Vach, however, who only arrived at Be’eri hours after those decisive tank shells were shot, did not lie about the battle out of loyalty to Hiram. Rather, he had his own motive for spinning Israel’s military failures into anti-Semitic atrocity tales: to manufacture consent for Israel’s utter annihilation of the Gaza Strip.

Rescue chief wants to quell Gaza

From the start, Vach was not shy about the lessons he believed should be drawn from the atrocity tales he invented of Palestinian fighters burning Israeli babies. In interviews with numerous news outlets, Vach has repeatedly drawn a direct line between the non-existent torched tots and the corresponding response he believes Israel should unleash on the Gaza Strip.

“I found this concept in the past few days of concentrating people to one place to kill them and to burn them. What exactly is the reason, I do not know. But after a few days, I knew that I should follow the fires,” Vach told The Sun while standing in front of Pessi Cohen’s home on 14 October. “So in this particular house, 19 people were. And I call it the example of what we’re facing right now in Gaza. And this is exactly the reason that we need to clear this region, not only the perimeter around the kibbutz.”

“In this corner of this living room, we find a concentration of eight babies, burned,” Vach told another group of journalists while standing in front of the same house on the same day. “If we needed anything to convince us we cannot use the same democratic tools that the world uses. It’s not the human rights that you in your mind think of,” he later told the group.

In a third interview the same day with The Mirror, Vach managed to succinctly convey both messages in just 28 words: “Not only have I seen a baby beheaded by Hamas, I held it in my hands. This is why this region needs to be cleared of these people.”

It can be assumed that Vach conveyed these same false stories – and the same argument that they exempt Israel from its obligations under international law – when he gave tours of the destroyed kibbutzim one day earlier, on Friday 13 October, to some of Europe’s most powerful politicians: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, European Union parliament President Roberta Metsola and other VIPs.

Vach’s lies have undoubtedly contributed to the enormous support Israel has received for its annihilation of Gaza.

In an interview uploaded days after those tours, Vach told the group Israel Defense and Security Forum he hoped the Israeli army would invade Gaza for five months and “settle matters there for a hundred years to come.”

The following month, the forum’s general-secretary also began making false allegations of infanticide while giving a tour of the 7 October battle sites on behalf of the army. “They didn’t only kill Jews here – they did so by severely abusing them,” Lieutenant Colonel Yaron Buskila told a Hebrew language correspondent in a video interview posted online in late November. “Here they were also children, babies tied on a laundry line, literally in a row.”

“It was a very difficult scene. I – when I saw it, it shocked me,” Buskila said.

The Israeli journalist deleted the video and apologized for it the following day when Buskila’s falsehoods were pointed out to him.

Buskila’s false testimony and its quick debunking began to raise questions about other atrocity tales peddled by Israel and its advocates. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz used data it collected on all Israeli citizens and foreign nationals killed on 7 October to demonstrate that numerous claims of atrocities allegedly committed by Palestinian fighters were actually outright lies.

Haaretz euphemistically stated that Golan Vach and several others had “disseminated unverified information” about those battles.

In its investigation, Haaretz noted that Israeli government social media accounts had published a video of Vach recounting his lies in front of Pessi Cohen’s house. The text of the post read: “Listen to the eyewitness accounts of the eight burned babies and one beheaded baby which were butchered by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. Pure evil.” The post remains online at press time, months later.

Responding to Haaretz, the Israeli army stated that Vach “used the word ‘babies’ to describe a number of children’s bodies that were found. The error was made in good faith and does not mitigate the severity of the atrocities committed.”

When Palestinian solidarity groups protested Vach’s visit to South Africa in April, noting his lies about burnt babies and demanding his arrest, Vach trotted out the same excuse, tacitly admitting that no such babies existed, claiming that the bodies he recovered “were so shrunken from being burned, it was difficult to know if they were babies or children.”

Assuming that “children’s bodies” is a reference to 12-year-olds Liel and Yanai Hatsroni – torched to death by tank shelling ordered by Barak Hiram – the army is claiming here that Vach was talking about the bodies of two healthy junior high students when he said, “In this corner of this living room, we find a concentration of eight babies, burned.”

In her first television interview 48 hours after the battle, survivor Yasmin Porat, mother to three children, appraised the Hatsroni twins, who she met for the first time on 7 October, as “teenagers… aged 14 or 15”.

In a subsequent interview, Porat noted that Liel and Yanai spent the entire battle in a small water closet behind the kitchen, on the other side of the house, not in the living room where Vach claimed he found “eight babies, burned.” Moreover, a relative of the Hatsronis told The Electronic Intifada that the twins were incinerated entirely and left no bodies behind for Vach to collect.

An AFP report on Israeli atrocity allegations published two weeks later also focused on comments made by Colonel Vach on a media tour of Be’eri. Vach’s claim to the news agency AFP on 27 October that he “personally” recovered from Kibbutz Be’eri the corpse of “a decapitated baby” was belied by Israeli social security data, which showed that no such victim existed. Asked by AFP to clarify the glaring contradiction, the army went silent.

At the same time, however, a private American firm providing fact-checking services for Facebook and TikTok determined that the Pessi Cohen house was not destroyed by Israeli tank fire, and that the corpses found inside the home did in fact include eight Israeli babies torched by Hamas.

“Does a video show an Israeli army commander on 14 October 2023, stating that the Israel Defense Forces trapped and burned Israeli civilians in a house? No, that’s not true,” reported the firm, Lead Stories.

The faulty fact-checkers verified Vach’s allegations of infanticide to Andalou Agency based only on an emailed statement of support from the Israeli Government Press Office. “Hamas did the killing,” said Ron Paz, director of the foreign press department of Israel’s GPO. “These were the actions of Hamas.”

Ten days later, the fact-checking team of Israeli newspaper Globes doubled down on the same analysis, declaring that the burn victims described in the video by Vach were killed by Palestinians, not Israeli tank fire. “It follows that it’s in reference to an incident perpetrated by Hamas,” Globes wrote.

By that time, The New York Times had published its report on the 7 October battles at Be’eri, igniting a small furor in Israel with its admission from General Hiram that he ordered a tank to shell Pessi Cohen’s house “even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

With attention focused on the battle commander who actually caused those casualties, the rescue chief who told foreign reporters that they included eight Israeli babies burned by Hamas has escaped scrutiny ever since.

The army now abandoned the Vach-invented atrocity tale of “burned babies” and pivoted to another fictitious account of the battle, one which would reflect less poorly on Hiram.

In April, in a series of leaks, the army dismissed survivor testimonies that almost all of the captives were shredded or incinerated by tank shelling, and began implying that the civilians had actually died from bullet wounds caused by assault rifles.

On 2 April right-wing Israeli journalist Amit Segal reported on Channel 12 that the Israeli army’s armored division had investigated and found that “it cannot be said that they were killed by the tank firing” and “the vast majority were killed from light arms.”

But no official report was published and the military denied that its overall investigation of the incident had concluded. “The incident is still being investigated, and findings or conclusions have not been concluded. The details presented are not an official opinion,” a military spokesperson told Israeli media.

In May, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu published a video slamming International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan’s filing for an arrest warrant against him and defense minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Gaza.

In the video, Netanyahu repeated the blood libel invented by Vach, claiming that Palestinian fighters who attacked Israel on 7 October “burned Jewish babies.”

Vach in uniform shakes hands with Netanyahu who is standing in front of Gallant as people look on

Colonel Golan Vach, left, is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Yoav Gallant, after Israeli rescuers returned from helping in the aftermath of the earthquake in Turkey, February 2023. (Wikimedia Commons)

Rescue chief led far-right lobby to suppress Palestinians in the Galilee

Colonel Golan Vach served as an active soldier in the Israeli army for a quarter century, and after 2018 remained in the reserves for several months of every year as the commander of the home front command’s national rescue unit, among the only such units in the world under military command.

Vach has regularly led the unit overseas, helping to recover disaster victims in other countries, including in the US. Israel likely paid to publish Vach’s self-published account of the unit’s efforts to recover victims of a condominium collapse in a Miami, Florida, suburb in 2021.

In his capacity as the Israeli state’s premiere first responder, Vach has in recent years been feted by multiple Muslim heads of state, including those of Albania and Turkey.

Because of his stature and reputation, Israel’s national rescue chief Golan Vach was believed by reporters and editors all over the world, who published his bald-faced lies about Palestinians decapitating and burning to death Israeli babies on 7 October, even without any evidence.

When a reporter suggested that some might find his allegations of beheading and burning hard to believe, Vach pushed back hard, comparing such skeptics to deniers of the Nazi Holocaust.

“Some people say that the Holocaust didn’t exist,” Vach told The New Yorker in October. “These people also, if they would see it with their own eyes, they would say that we faked the situation.”

If they had only dismissed his gaslighting and done their due diligence, those same media outlets would have found plenty of evidence in the public domain of Vach’s desire “to clear this region” of Palestinians without regard for “human rights” from well before that date.

Vach was born and raised in Kiryat Arba when his father Shalom Vach was the council head of the notorious extremist settlement, the first Israel built in the West Bank in 1968, near the Palestinian city of Hebron.

With Rabbi Oury Cherki, the spiritual leader of a Kahanist faction of the Likud party, Shalom Vach leads Israeli Immigrant Absorption, an NGO that helps foreign Jews settle in the occupied West Bank, with around a quarter of a million dollars of government support every year for the last decade. Golan Vach himself now has a leading role in a subsidiary of the group, Yisraela.

Along with both his septuagenarian parents and most of his 10 siblings, Golan Vach also leads the Vach Family as a musical group that has recorded six albums’ worth of Bible verses set to folksy harmonies.

To promote their music amongst their fellow Orthodox Jews, the Vachs requested and received the stamp of approval of Dov Lior, the former Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba who advises the Kahanist Jewish Power party and who called the movement’s leading mass murderer Baruch Goldstein “a holier martyr than all the holy martyrs of the Holocaust.”

A limited edition disc of the Vach Family’s greatest hits was pressed and given to donors to the notorious Bnei David Yeshiva, a religious academy in the occupied West Bank that has preached for the literal enslavement of Palestinians. Vach still fondly recalls his first year as an adult spent studying there. “That was the most influential year and a half of my life,” he told Israel’s Channel 7 last year.

Vach went on to marry, father seven children, and build a home for his burgeoning family at a religious kibbutz in the north of the country, Beit Rimon. From there he has led a government-funded Jewish settlement lobby group that also aspires to “clear this region” of Palestinians. Lev BaGalil, or “Heart in the Galilee,” which Vach headed between 2019 and 2021, was formed in 2015 by Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, as the northern branch of the Zionist settlement group Regavim.

Lev BaGalil’s strategy in the Galilee has been succinctly summarized by Vach’s neighbor in Beit Rimon, Ofir Schick, the group’s current chairman who both preceded and succeeded Vach in that role.

“There is a lingual reality today that does not allow direct speech. Anyone that approaches a government minister and speaks about the Judaization of the Galilee will not receive support. They cannot support things like that. It’s not because of a law or a government decision they are bound by, but the sentiment in the public and the media is such that you can’t speak about ‘Judaization,’ and therefore in practice we invent all sorts of other terms to take us to the objective,” Schick told Israel’s Channel 7.

“Every locale and local council in the Galilee, 100 percent of them, share the desire to tip the scale and increase the number of Jews in the Galilee,’ Schick added, “but they know that they are forbidden from saying that explicitly.”

During his term leading Lev BaGalil, Vach united the various local councils in the Galilee and in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights into a single umbrella group, in order to negotiate bigger government budgets.

By the end of 2022, the group’s founder Bezalel Smotrich and the rest of the Israeli far-right had returned to government, and Lev BaGalil had convinced even Israel’s Kibbutz Movement to amplify its anti-Arab fear-mongering: “You have to come here to see the national disgrace ongoing in the heart of the Galilee. The State of Israel has forgotten why it manifested, and it abandoned here a whole region,” Kibbutz Movement general-secretary Nir Meir announced at a meeting with Lev BaGalil leaders.

“I call upon the prime minister, define it as a national priority: one million Jews in the Galilee. No less than that,” said Meir, until recently head of the kibbutz caucus in Israel’s Labor party.

To Vach and his political partners, non-Jews are seemingly incorrigible enemies who must be kept in check using every legal means, until a false premise can be manufactured to abandon “human rights” and utterly genocide them.

“A Jew conducts an orchestra of vengeance”

When he arrived in army uniform at the smoldering ruins of Israeli settlements attacked on 7 October, even a hardened veteran of disaster sites like Colonel Golan Vach had to have been shocked by the death and destruction he saw.

But the Israeli army had trained and charged Vach above all others to do that difficult work, and he had an obligation to report the truth about what he found when he got to those grisly battle grounds.

Instead, Golan Vach invented a blood libel of ghastly proportions to manufacture support for an Israeli military response that has thus far killed more than 30 times the number of Palestinians as Israelis killed on 7 October.

“The creatures on the other side of the fence need to receive a burn so strong that they will remember it as the Nakba of 7 October 2023,” Vach told Israeli religious news outlet Makor Rishon that same month.

Vach has also repeatedly claimed that the Palestinian forces that attacked Israel were aided by intelligence gleaned from Gazans who worked in Israel before 7 October, and even received logistical help from some Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“Hamas had internal intelligence from Arabs who worked in the kibbutzim. This is not an assumption. It’s a fact,” Vach told an Orthodox Jewish American publication, Jewish Action. “The terrorists got internal aid from traitors inside Israel, from Arabs.”

Relying solely on Vach’s claims, The Irish Sun ran the beheaded and burned babies story under the headline, “Hamas’ massacre was ‘inside job’ using Palestinians who helped kill and rob Israeli families who employed them.”

In March, Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, said that after interrogating thousands of detained Palestinian workers for months, it concluded that Palestinian laborers had not conspired with the Palestinian fighters who attacked Israel on 7 October and had not fed them information about the Israeli settlements where they worked, and their potential vulnerabilities.

After weeks of overseeing corpse collection, Vach joined the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to advise Israeli combat soldiers on how to operate amongst ruined buildings – a situation for which the army had never been trained.

After returning from the front, Vach reflected on what he observed there in a series of interviews. If at the start he had hoped for Israel’s invasion to last five months, three months later he now allowed himself to dream bigger.

“Operationally we are really at the beginning,” Vach said in a January video interview with religious media channel Hidabroot. “At the beginning of the first stage of taking care of Gaza.”

At that point, the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip had already killed more than 24,000 Palestinians.

In March, Vach told the Jewish Journal, “We have at least a few more years of war.”

Vach also asserted that most Palestinian civilians were culpable for attacks on “the Jewish people.”

“The Gaza Strip is cancerous from north to south,” Vach said. “The vast majority vote for Hamas, support Hamas, made Hamas.”

In another interview with Israel’s national broadcaster, Vach’s comments took on an explicitly religious and sectarian tone. “Our God is merciful and kind. Our God is the source of life,” Vach said. “Their god is vicious and evil. Their god is the source of death,” he added.

Vach went on to recall the joy he felt over the carnage he had witnessed in the Strip.

“The entry to Gaza consisted of the [Israeli army] in all its glory. The Air Force with the pilots … and the artillery, and everyone shooting, everyone shooting towards the same point … those in the sky and those on the wing and those on the ground,” Vach recalled. “And you see one point where all their lines meet, where their firing lines reach, as one person with one heart.”

“An insane scene where you see everything burning … such a scene of power and fire and smoke. And at a certain stage it all converges and we see a cloud of red smoke in the air, massive,” Vach said. “This is what Mount Sinai looks like.”

In a print interview with the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, Vach weaved together his life’s most recurring themes: Orthodox Judaism, cheerful music and the Israeli military destroying Palestine and its people.

“Experience a little of the purity being revealed within [the Gaza Strip] and return much healthier … It’s like King Saul, in a foul mood, and [future King] David would play [music] for him,” Vach said. “Go inside [to Gaza], hear a Jewish soldier playing a machine gun – and your good spirits will return.”

“The IDF is now required to be cruel in war,” Vach added, “The face of evil is in Gaza … to wage war on them is to love humanity.”

Vach officially stepped down from his role as commander of the army’s national rescue unit in January and returned to civilian life.

His three-decade career will leave behind an indelible stamp on the Israeli military and on the rescue forces it dispatches to the farthest corners of the world.

But Golan Vach’s most lasting legacy – inventing an infanticide to manufacture consent for Israel’s genocide in Gaza – is probably best epitomized by a poem Vach wrote and published a month after the battles of 7 October.

He titled the poem “In Vengeance.”

“Yes. Blood makes up for blood,” Vach wrote. “The thunder of shells is drums to our ears / The volley of machine guns, the tune / A Jew conducts an orchestra of vengeance.”

David Sheen is the author of Kahanism and American Politics: The Democratic Party’s Decades-Long Courtship of Racist Fanatics.




Extraordinary work. Thanks to Davis Sheen and The Electronic Intifada for revealing the truth, one of the most noble tasks that can be undertaken today.


"All of them were middle-aged or older, save for adolescent twins taken captive from next door."
David Sheen

12-year olds are still children not "adolescents".

Even if the "burning" of "8 babies" were true, it still wouldn't have justified mass slaughter in Gaza, including scores of infants, children, teens, and adults of all ages.


Incredible, forensic work here, David, so well done indeed! It seems totally clear that Israel has lied and lied in order to try and justify its attempted genocide. The only thing so far lacking in our challenge of this psycopathy is the idea that Israel knew about, and allowed / enabled the 7 Oct attacks, for the same purpose. Plenty of evidence is there - eg this article from the Cradle; surely if people see that Israel deliberately planned for this, the penny will drop - Israel is a terrorist state:

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