I am an American veteran who watched the footage of Hamas’s atrocities on October 7. People should know what it shows.
by John Spencer
Last week, I watched the roughly 45-minute footage of the atrocities conducted by Hamas on October 7 at a private screening at the Israeli Consulate in New York City. I left the consulate and immediately went to write down my reactions to seeing the video because I felt strongly people should understand what is in it. I also felt strongly after watching the video, that everyone should not see it. Here is why.
The video is a compilation of mainly GoPro camera and cellphone footage from hundreds of Hamas terrorists, but it also includes Israeli home security cameras, car dash cameras, traffic cameras, and first responder cell videos to piece together the before, during, and after of multiple single events and sites of the massacre. The unique combinations of points of views of a single act creates a visceral experience of each crime scene.
The film starts with Hamas terrorists riding in the back of pickup trucks and motorcycles in a column armed with AK-47s, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), and a few heavy machine guns. The vehicles drive through a cut made in the Israel border wall. The terrorists were all screaming with joy, yelling over and over “Allahu Akbar!” As a former commander who has led troops into combat, I was shocked at the behavior of the Hamas members. Soldiers don’t show such excitement, happiness when riding into combat or danger.
One of the first scenes of violence is on a highway in Southern Israel from a civilian vehicle dash camera. There are more than 10 terrorists spread out shooting into cars stopped on the highway. Bullets can be seen coming through the dash camera front wind glass and then the car slows and crashes into another car already stopped.
Then the video goes to GoPro footage of the Hamas terrorist engaging the car the viewer the previous footage was showing. The terrorist approaches the vehicles shooting multiple rounds until he sees it slow and wreck into another car. He approaches the window and fires at close range multiple rounds into the male driver and woman passenger in the car to ensure they are dead.
Next at a Kibbutz entrance on CCTV, two Hamas terrorist slowly walk up to the gate peering through the gate bars, appearing to try to sneak in, but the gate is closed. They walk off camera. A civilian car approaches the gate and activates the automatic opening. The terrorists walk into camera view and fire at the windows of the car at close range. They look in to ensure the passengers are dead, and then walk into the Kibbutz.
A home security camera footage inside the home of the Kibbutz shows a father in his underwear, who looks to have just awakened, frantically carrying his two sons through the room, and running outside. The two boys also are in underwear (both appear between 8-12, like my son). Another camera shows the father and sons leave their house and enter a shelter in their backyard.
Seconds later a Hamas terrorist approaches the shelter the father and sons had just entered. The terrorist looks into the shelter and then throws a grenade into it.
Through the smoke the father is seen collapsing at the opening of the shelter, dead, clearly having attempted to stand between his sons and the terrorist.
The boys are pulled out of the shelter over their dead father’s body by one of the terrorists. They are taken back into the house, and put on the couch.
But now the video’s audio is distinctive. I hear a sound I am very familiar with. The sound of a dying man in war – a death moan. But it isn’t coming from a man, it is coming from one of the boys. The other cries. Blood flows in lines down from both boys clearly from the shrapnel of the grenade.
The boys attempt to talk to each other.
“Dad is dead.” The older brother is trying to comfort the younger, more covered in blood now. “Can you see out of your eye? No? Not at all?”
The eye looks gone.
“No, I can’t see anything.”
The terrorist seems oblivious to the two boys suffering. He is only a few feet away going through their fridge, picking out first the water and then a 2-liter of Coke that he begins to drink.
Inside an Israeli house.
Next, a CCTV footage in a kindergarten. Photos of cartoon characters on the walls, small chairs and chalkboards. A lone teacher is hiding in a room. She is trying to use kid nap pads to cover her body. A pair of Hamas terrorists enter the school, searching room by room. They reach her room, look in, and fire at her.
One of the terrorists enters the room, makes sure she is dead, and then puts her on his shoulder and carries her away.
Now scenes of the Nova music festival. Young kids dancing with faint Hamas paragliders in the distance. Then the popping of gunfire. Teenagers start chaotically running in all directions. First, they run to their cars, but there appears to be a massive traffic jam. Then hundreds can be seen abandoning their cars at once and running in mass into an open field as Hamas terrorists show up in vehicles.
The video cuts to Hamas Go Pro footage of their vehicles arriving to the festival, terrorists jumping out of the back of their trucks and immediately firing into the crowd of teenagers running through the field. One of the Hamas heavy machine guns mounted in the back of a pickup opens fire.
Then Hamas members entering the festival. They fire wildly into the porta johns. Cut to footage of petrified Israeli teenagers hiding in those same porta johns. Then videos of the dead bodies and floors covered in blood in the porta johns.
Then video of first responders arriving to the festival. An IDF soldier calls out as he approaches a food/bar tent: “I have one dead, I have two dead, three dead, four, five dead.” He nervously yells: “Is anyone alive? Please let me know if you are alive,” only to look over the bar counter to see tens of civilian bodies lying on top of each other.
The film flashes to tens of Israeli teenagers hiding in a large dumpster of black trash bags. A few seconds later there is a first responder video of just dead bodies in the dumpster.
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The video does not show rape. Thank God. But there are other signs that Hamas targeted young women at the festival and other sites. There is a video of a group of more than five teenage girls scared, shaking, and huddled together in a tent. A Hamas terrorist enters the tent.
Flash to all girls handcuffed and walking out of the tent now, their faces cut, bruised, eye sockets swollen, teeth full of blood. They appear to have been beaten. Some of them are shoved into different vehicles.
One girl from the original huddle, seen in the line walked out of the tent, is separated and put into a jeep. Later the same girl with her pants soaked in blood just around her anus to the front of her pants is moved from the trunk of the jeep to the back seat.
There are also multiple photos of dead teenage women laying in the field of the festival, no pants, legs in disfigured and unnatural positions that would require breaking them to form.
Another scene shows Hamas in a Kibbutz screaming at a dead elderly man lying on the ground. Multiple terrorist step on the dead man’s head. One of the terrorists asks for the garden hoe nearby. The Hamas terrorist takes the hoe and repeatedly strikes at the old man’s throat trying to behead the man. With each swing the terrorist screams “Allahu Akbar!”
In another scene a Hamas terrorist takes a knife and quickly severs the head of an IDF soldier with his helmet still on his head. Once the terrorist cuts entirely through, he picks up the soldier’s head and walks off with it leaving his body behind. Another photo shows just heads found in a field flattened from some type of smashing.
There are many scenes of burned bodies. Bodies frozen in awkward positions in vehicles, on the highways, in their homes. The bodies burned to ashy skeletons. It gave me memories of visiting concentration camps of Dachau and seeing the photos of the holocaust.
There are also many photos of dead children and babies. Some where they were found, others in body bags. Young children still in their Disney Mickey Mouse or Stitch pajamas. Some burned and mutilated.
From a military lens I did see Hamas fighters with training, leaders giving orders to kill systematically, conserving ammo.
“Shoot them just once in the head, save your ammo.” I heard their communication back to leaders in Gaza.
In one scene a man is instructed to bring an IDF soldier’s body back even though he is dead. I also saw Hamas terrorists with no training, firing wildly into dead bodies or crowds of fleeing civilians.
There is an audio recording of one Hamas terrorist who used an Israeli woman’s cellphone to call his parents. “Father I am in XX, I just killed 10 Jews, their blood is in my hands, thank God, tell mom, tell mom, I am using a Jew woman’s phone.”
The man (dad) and woman (mom) he is talking to just yell and reply: “Kill, kill, kill.”
I have seen my share of evil firsthand around the world in wars of the Middle East, Ukraine, and other areas. I have seen heinous cruelty, dehumanization, and mutilations. I have looked evil men in the eye. But I have never seen so many evil men (thousands) show such joy in committing their acts.
I hated having to watch the video. You cannot unsee the evil shown in it. The unique way each scene shows all angles of evil massacres, mutilations, murder, over and over creates something different, a traumatic event.
I now understand more why it is only being selectively shown to others. The video has immense potential to traumatize viewers in unknowable ways based on the viewer’s past or who they are.
I personally will never forget the scenes of the children. Photo after photo of dead, burned, mutilated children. Some in the same pajamas my children wear, soaked in their blood. Or the scene of the two young brothers trying to care for each other through their injuries and pain while a terrorist stood by emotionless.
It is not natural. I have seen an entire platoon of soldiers mentally, morally, and emotionally crushed by the accidental injury of a single child in combat.
It is like Hamas released 2,000 Jeffrey Dahmers into Southern Israel. Cold, psychopathic, emotionless, serial killers that get joy in the suffering of others. Pure evil.
No one should want to see this video, but the horrors of that day should never be forgotten. Never rationalized away. The phrase in my head the whole time “Never Again” from the post-Holocaust, post-World War II era, but I was watching it “again.”
John Spencer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point, codirector of MWI’s Urban Warfare Project and host of the “Urban Warfare Project Podcast.” He served for 25 years as an infantry soldier, which included two combat tours in Iraq. He is the author of the book “Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connection in Modern War” and co-author of “Understanding Urban Warfare.” Follow him on X, at @SpencerGuard. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.