What Happened in the Hamas Attack on Be’eri, Israel


The massacre at Be’eri was not a single outburst of violence, over in a terrifying instant. It was a prolonged rampage, in which dozens of terrorists roamed freely through a pastoral village, killing methodically and with cruelty.

A 10-week New York Times investigation into what happened at Be’eri, based on interviews with scores of survivors and witnesses as well as on videos, text messages and recordings of phone calls, revealed a nightmare that lasted from just after dawn until well into the next day.

For a nation founded as a safe haven for Jews, the atrocities of Be’eri stand out as a defining trauma of the Oct. 7 attacks. An estimated 1,200 people died after Hamas and its allies surged across the border that day, provoking an Israeli campaign in Gaza that has killed roughly 20,000 people.

We interviewed more than 80 survivors, victims’ relatives, village leaders, soldiers and medics, and verified more than nine hours of security camera footage as well as phone and bodycam video shot by Gazans. We also reviewed more than 1,000 text messages and voice recordings, and used three-dimensional footage of Be’eri taken by Treedis, an Israeli software company, in the days after the massacre to reconstruct several sites where people were killed.

That allowed us to identify where most of the people at the kibbutz were killed. The loss of at least 97 civilians constituted almost one in every 10 people who lived in Be’eri, a community just east of Gaza that is roughly as small as Greenwich Village in New York City.

Source: Survivors and relatives. Basemap layers from OpenStreetMap and Microsoft Bing Buildings

Note: Each red dot shows where a body was found, or, if not known, the address of the person killed

The New York Times

Hamas gunmen and their allies focused their attack on the western parts of the village, the area closest to Gaza. They ransacked those neighborhoods house by house, systematically setting fire to scores of homes, killing many of those they found inside and abducting others.

In the center of the village, the gunmen slaughtered most of the people hiding inside a besieged health clinic. On the eastern flank of Be’eri, another squad of attackers gathered 14 hostages inside a ransacked home and used them as human shields during a standoff with Israeli forces; some of the hostages were killed in the crossfire, during a delayed and chaotic military response.

Residents were shot in their bedrooms, on the sidewalk, and under trees, where they lay like rag dolls in a heap. Others were trapped in burning buildings, their bodies found charred beyond recognition. The oldest victim was 88, and the youngest was less than a year old.

If there was method to the assault, there was also randomness to it. Some residents who hid in bathrooms or shrubbery survived while many who sheltered in safe rooms were killed.

Spouses lost lifelong partners. Parents lost children. Children lost parents.

Hadar Bachar, a poised 13-year-old who had planned to spend the day at a village festival, was determined to save her father after he was shot.

From the safe room, she made a video call to the ambulance service, which it recorded and later shared with the family.

To show her father’s wounds to the dispatcher, Hadar panned around the room.

A screenshot of the call between Hadar and the ambulance service showing her injured father.

The Bachar family

Her father, Avida Bachar, a 50-year-old farmer, was lying on the couch, unconscious but alive. His trousers were bloodied by bullets and grenade shrapnel.

Hoping to stem the bleeding, the dispatcher tried to tell Hadar how to make a tourniquet from a piece of clothing.

“No way I can,” she said. “I can’t even get up.”

She, too, was bleeding from the shrapnel of a grenade.

6:56 a.m.: A Rampage Begins

Hamas gunmen approaching the kibbutz gate.

Note: The surveillance camera clock is set one hour behind.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

Surveillance footage shows the first Hamas militants emerging from the woods on the edge of Be’eri shortly after sunrise. There were two of them, clad in combat uniforms and carrying assault rifles. They crept cautiously toward the village entrance, one wearing a green Hamas bandanna and the other a back-to-front cap.

Many residents were already awake, jolted from sleep roughly 25 minutes earlier by an unusually intense barrage of rockets from Gaza. The rockets had been mostly intercepted by Israel’s air-defense system, and some villagers resumed their Saturday routines.

One man was out jogging. Several loaded their cars with bicycles, ready for a day in the countryside. A team of chefs had begun to prepare breakfast at the dining hall.

Nirit Hunwald, a nurse, was preparing to take her children to a village-wide treasure hunt.

Nirit Hunwald, a nurse at the kibbutz.

Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Rinat Even, a social worker, was planning a family trip to see her siblings and parents in a nearby kibbutz.

Mr. Bachar was standing outside his home, gazing at the sky, wondering when the Israeli Air Force would respond to the rocket fire from Gaza.

Like most Israeli collective farms, or kibbutzim, Be’eri is a tightly knit community, sheltered from the outside world by a fence and a high yellow gate.

Residents often shared meals at a large communal dining hall and celebrated Jewish holidays together. Many left their doors unlocked and let their children play outside unsupervised until late at night.

They pooled their salaries into a central pot, which was then divided among the villagers. In addition to their farms, they ran an art gallery, a culture center and a large printworks.

The night before the attack, many residents had sipped wine and sung together in the village hall to mark the 77th anniversary of Be’eri.

The kibbutz was founded on the night of Oct. 5, 1946, one of 11 Jewish outposts established at the same time in an area largely populated by Arabs. In 1948, Arabs and Jews fought over the area during a war that forged the boundaries of the new state of Israel.

Egypt captured a sliver of nearby coastal land that became known as the Gaza Strip, and Be’eri became an Israeli border town, a short drive from Gaza’s eastern edge.

Israel occupied Gaza during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, withdrawing its troops in 2005 to allow Palestinians to run the territory. Hamas, an Islamist group opposed to Israel’s existence, seized power there in 2007, prompting Israel and Egypt to place Gaza under a crippling blockade.

Ever since, Be’eri has been on the frontline of several wars between Israel and Hamas. Whenever Hamas fired rockets from Gaza, families hurried into rocket-proof safe rooms, often a child’s bedroom.

Yet in a country that had shifted to the right, Be’eri was also known as a left-wing stronghold, filled with those who still believed in peace with the Palestinians. Some helped transport Gazans to and from medical treatment in Israel.

The yellow village gate embodied the sense of sanctuary that Be’eri offered its residents. It was a safe haven. Until that morning.

Using the butt of his rifle, one Hamas gunman smashed the window of the empty guardroom beside the gate.

He climbed inside. A second gunman hid in the trees.

The attack begins.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

Less than 20 seconds later, Benayahu Bitton, 22, approached Be’eri from the main road in a dark gray sedan, along with two friends.

The three had spent the night at a rave held roughly two miles away. Minutes earlier, Hamas gunmen had attacked the rave, and they fled.

Now, they were at the threshold of the nearest refuge they could find: the yellow gate of the Be’eri kibbutz.

The gate began to open.

Unseen by Mr. Bitton, the second gunman sneaked out from behind a tree, weapon raised, and fired into the car.

Mr. Bitton twisted in his seat, twitched, before slumping motionless.

poster for video

Warning: This video contains graphic imagery.

Civilians were shot as they sought safety.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

The car rolled slowly through the open gate, coming to a halt 20 yards inside the village.

Mr. Bitton and his two friends were dead.

The massacre at Be’eri had begun.

7:42 a.m.: ‘Where Is the Army?’

Due to fear of infiltration, residents are asked to lock themselves in their homes.

7:00 a.m.

Terrorist on the steps of Keren Cohen’s house

7:14 a.m.

We are hearing lots of gunshots, please update

7:35 a.m.

Inside Yona Fricker’s house

7:42 a.m.

Where is the army???

7:42 a.m.

The fear spread quickly in Be’eri, as scores of gunmen flowed into the village. The attackers almost immediately killed the head of the local emergency squad, a group of residents trained to help in moments of crisis.

Their leader dead, the surviving volunteers could not unlock the community storeroom where many of their guns were kept. Some of them were left unarmed.

They retreated to a dentist’s clinic, one of them shot and gravely wounded. Ms. Hunwald, the nurse, rushed through the streets to treat him.

On the village messaging app, residents repeatedly wondered why they had been left to fend for themselves.

Why is there no army in the kibbutz? Is anyone dealing with the terrorists?


Is the army here? where are they


Where is the army? How long could it take to send forces by helicopter?


What’s going on with the army???


The Israeli military had been overwhelmed by the scale of the Hamas attack. The main army headquarters in the area had been breached. Troops were ambushed on a main road, restricting access to almost all the affected kibbutzim, including Be’eri.

A small group of police officers managed to reach Be’eri at 7:37 a.m., driving an unmarked car. Security footage shows them parking near the entrance and dashing chaotically into the village.

While they were gone, a squad of gunmen arrived on motorbikes, rummaging through Mr. Bitton’s car. They also unsuccessfully attempted to steal the police officers’ jeep. When the police returned, nearly an hour later, they found some contents of Mr. Bitton’s car — clothes and a cooler — strewn across the sidewalk.

The body of one of Mr. Bitton’s slain friends was hanging limply from an open door.

Police officers near the main entrance.

Note: The surveillance camera clock is set one hour behind.

Overwhelmed and outmanned, the police fled.

Once again, the village’s emergency squad was left to defend Be’eri alone.

10:05 a.m.: A Terrorist at the Door

A blast mark on the exterior of a home.


Avida Bachar had lived in Be’eri all his life and managed the village farms, cultivating wheat, mangoes and avocados. His wife, Dana, 48, ran one of the village nursery schools, and was so skilled at caring for young children that some in the kibbutz called her a “baby whisperer.”

They had met as teenagers when Mr. Bachar was serving as a conscript in the navy, close to where Ms. Bachar was also doing mandatory service. They spent a year together in New York, where she worked as a nanny and he as a mover, before deciding to build a life together back in Be’eri.

They had raised their four children in a two-story home with beige walls on the western edge of the village, in the neighborhood closest to Gaza.

Carmel, 15, was an energetic teenager who loved surfing. Hadar was seen as mature for her age, an independent-minded young teenager who enjoyed baking and often helped her mother, Dana, at the nursery. Their elder brothers were away.

After news spread of the attack, the couple hurried with Hadar and Carmel into their safe room, a spare bedroom on the ground floor. Carmel grabbed several kitchen knives, in case he needed to defend his family.

The couple realized the militants had entered from the ring of the Austrian cowbell hanging on their front door.

“We hear them,” Dana Bachar wrote in a family WhatsApp group at 10:05 a.m.

As the Bachars hid in their safe room, groups of men were rampaging across the kibbutz — killing, looting and burning, surveillance video shows. Some were uniformed militants from Hamas. Others appeared to be civilians from Gaza who had followed in their wake. At least 120 men raided Be’eri that day, according to an Israeli commander who led the fight to retake the village, while village leaders put the number at over 200.

Scores arrived at the village’s side entrance, most in cars and one riding a horse-and-cart. At first, they heaved themselves over the 10-foot fence, one of them with a cigarette casually dangling from his lips.

Then one man kicked open a pedestrian gate, allowing the intruders to enter more easily. Young men, wearing T-shirts and jeans, sprinted inside. An elderly man with a white beard, leaning on two walking sticks, followed after them.

Entering the kibbutz.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

By now, a small group of Israeli special forces had arrived by helicopter. They tried to fight their way through the kibbutz, but were heavily outnumbered. One soldier was shot dead, and another was wounded by a gunshot to the chest, according to two members of the unit and a civilian who accompanied them.

By late morning, they had retreated to the main gate, where they tried to repel a new wave of attackers. Footage from the gate shows Israeli soldiers shooting at a car of militants, two of whom flee before the car catches fire.

poster for video

Warning: This video contains graphic imagery.

Confronting the invaders.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

The attackers were largely free to plunder, murder and kidnap.

Residents were rounded up and taken at gunpoint to the terrorists’ vehicles. Footage showed one squad of militants corralling barefoot residents along a village street, and another group leading an 85-year-old woman through a garden.

poster for video

Warning: This video contains graphic imagery.

Taken prisoner by the gunmen.

Gazans who roamed the kibbutz stole bicycles, a television, a golf buggy, even a tractor, video feeds reviewed by The Times showed.

Militants also made off with Mr. Bitton’s car, discarding his body in the street, security cameras show. Later, two men arrived in a jeep, picked up the body of one of Mr. Bitton’s passengers, and drove away with it.

For roughly four hours, the Bachar family hid in their safe room unnoticed. They silenced their phones and communicated with relatives by text and whispered voice notes. Unable to venture outside, they relieved themselves in a pot whenever they needed the bathroom.

By 11:23 a.m., a group of men was trying to break inside the safe room, according to messages sent by the family and their friends.

While safe rooms have reinforced walls designed to protect against rocket fire, they usually have no locks. They were never intended to keep out intruders.

So when the intruders tried to wrench the door open, Mr. Bachar could only grab its handle from the inside, struggling to keep the door shut.

That is when one of the attackers began firing at the door, piercing it.

One burst hit Carmel in the hand and abdomen.

A second burst struck Mr. Bachar’s legs.

Wounded and exhausted, Mr. Bachar fell back into the room, expecting the attackers to enter.

Instead, smoke began to seep under the door. The attackers had set their home on fire.

Desperate for air, the Bachars opened the window, which was protected by reinforced iron shutters. Minutes later, the attackers blasted open the shutters, throwing in grenades and firing on the family.

The grenades wounded Hadar and her father.

12:05 p.m: Running Out of Air

Smoke rising from fires set across the kibbutz.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

A few houses down the street, Rinat Even, the social worker, texted her final goodbyes to friends and relatives.

“I don’t see a way out of this,” Ms. Even, 44, wrote to her brothers.

“I don’t believe we will make it,” she wrote to a friend.

Ms. Even was sweltering with her family and their dog in their safe room.

Ms. Even had grown up nine miles away, in another farming village where her parents still live. She had moved to Be’eri in her 20s, initially working in the kindergarten, and eventually meeting Chen Even, a water engineer who later oversaw the irrigation of the village fields. They married in a modest ceremony beside the kibbutz swimming pool, and raised four sons, ages 8 to 16.

Now, their home was on fire, as was most of the neighborhood.

Outside, plumes of smoke were rising from several houses, turning the sky from bright blue to dark gray, security camera footage showed. The attackers burned dozens of homes in the village, in what appeared to be a systematic attempt to force residents to leave their safe rooms.

Families had to choose between being burned alive or shot to death.

One family of five waited until the magnets stuck to their safe room door began to melt. Then they jumped from a second-floor window, one child breaking his foot upon landing.

In another apartment in the same burning building, gunmen reached an 80-year-old retiree, Avlum Miles. In a call with his daughter at 1 p.m., he said they had removed the fingers on his left hand, without explaining how. He then began to drift in and out of consciousness.

“Dad, can you stay with me?” his daughter said, in a recording of the call provided to The Times. “I want you to stay with me.”

“I can’t hear anything,” Mr. Miles replied.

“I want you to stay with me the rest of my life, Dad,” his daughter said.

“Goodbye,” Mr. Miles said.

It was the last time she heard his voice.

At the Evens’ home, soot began to cover the walls of the house. Smoke filled their safe room. The heat rising, they stripped to their underwear.

“We must get out,” Ms. Even said in a text.

The parents and their sons prepared to die.

“No air,” Ms. Even wrote. “No rescue.”

In desperation, they opened a window and jumped. They left behind their dog, Marco, a Hungarian vizsla, fearing that he would attract attention.

With no other place to hide, the family lay down beneath a line of trees, according to photographs Ms. Even sent a friend.

Burned grass and a scorched home, photographed by Rinat Even.

Erez Cohen

After abandoning their clothes in the fire, the six of them were nearly naked.

As news spread that more soldiers had arrived, Ms. Even’s hopes rose.

“With God’s help it will end soon,” Ms. Even wrote a friend.

Members of the Even family hiding, photographed by Ms. Even.

Erez Cohen

Until they ran out of ammunition, the volunteers from the emergency squad had slowed the attackers’ advance, fending them off for hours around the clinic. Two of them stood at the entrance to the clinic, opening fire on every gunman they saw.

Every few minutes the volunteers received another alert about another family in danger in Be’eri. Pinned down in the clinic, there was little they could do to respond.

“Everyone who leaves is shot,” Ms. Hunwald, 38, texted her wife.

The defense of the clinic had given Ms. Hunwald and two other medics time to treat some volunteers hurt in the raid. While one died, Ms. Hunwald and her team managed to save two — one hit in the back, and another hit in the pelvis.

Ms. Hunwald left a religious community to be with Einat Kornfeld, also 38, after they met as conscripts in the military. The couple moved to Be’eri five years ago, and had expected to spend the day playing and flying kites with their four children, ages 2 through 9.

Instead, Ms. Kornfeld was in the safe room with their children as attackers wandered near their home. After one child wet himself, the family lay for hours in a pool of urine.

Ms. Hunwald was crouched in a bathroom at the clinic, waiting for the gunmen to find her.

It’s over for me.

Nirit Hunwald

I love you. You’re my whole life

Einat Kornfeld

You made my life the best it could be

Nirit Hunwald

We were lucky to have each other

Einat Kornfeld

Another medic begged for mercy. The gunmen shot her dead.

Over the next few minutes, they killed three more people at the clinic, strafing its walls with gunfire.

One man survived after burrowing himself beneath a sink and pretending to be dead.

The gunmen didn’t check the bathroom where Ms. Hunwald hid.

3:25 p.m.: ‘Take Them All to Gaza’

The couple had thought they were safe after fleeing the massacre at the nearby music festival. Instead, they found a village under lockdown, facing a similar attack.

The couple, Yasmin Porat, 44, and Tal Katz, 37, knocked on several doors, hoping to find a resident who might give them shelter.

No one dared open up — until they reached the home of Hadas Dagan, a yoga teacher living on the southeastern side of the village.

Hadas Dagan, a resident of Be’eri.

Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Ms. Dagan, 70, and her husband, Adi, 68, were left-wing Israelis who regularly drove Palestinian invalids to hospitals across Israel, most recently earlier that week. They hurried the ravers inside and made them coffee.

The two couples rested inside the Dagans’ safe room and spent the morning watching television reports about the music festival.

Roughly six hours later around 2 p.m., the terrorists reached the home, according to texts sent by Ms. Porat at the time.

They blasted open the Dagans’ safe room door with an explosive.

The Dagans’ house after the attack.

Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Captured by Hamas militants, the two couples were led to a nearby house.

Inside, they found 10 other hostages, surrounded by gunmen. Nine were seated around a dining table, including the 68-year-old owner of the house, Pesi Cohen; two of Ms. Cohen’s houseguests; as well as four retirees and 12-year-old twins who had been abducted from nearby homes.

One hostage stood nearby, a Palestinian minibus driver from East Jerusalem captured after he waited to collect people attending the music festival. Another of Ms. Cohen’s guests was dead, slumped on the floor.

Using the minibus driver as a translator, the captors explained that they intended to take the hostages back to Gaza.

The Israeli security forces were beginning to regain control of Be’eri, so they asked Ms. Porat to help them negotiate safe passage.

She set up a call between the Hamas commander and an Arabic-speaking police officer.

“Hello, God give you health,” the Hamas commander told the officer in Arabic, in a call recorded by the police and obtained by The Times.

“God give you health,” said the officer. “Who’s speaking with me? What’s your name?”

“God bless you, I’m from the Qassam brigades,” the commander replied, referring to Hamas’s military wing. “If you cause us any trouble, I’ll kill one of the hostages with me.”

“What’s the problem?” the officer asked. “Talk to me.”

“The problem is that I want to take them all to Gaza,” the commander replied.

“If you shoot us,” he said, “I’ll kill one of them.”

4 p.m.: A General’s Dilemma

With the military in disarray, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram had suddenly been placed in charge of the Israeli effort to take back Be’eri and the surrounding area.

General Hiram was considered a rising star in the military. He lost an eye during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and was set to take charge of the army’s Gaza brigade next year. His division operated in northern Israel and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where General Hiram also lived.

He reached Be’eri around 4 p.m. to find a disorganized hodgepodge of Israeli units fighting in different parts of the village.

One group of special forces was focused on advancing through the western part of Be’eri, while another was assigned the eastern flank. Surveillance footage showed soldiers recapturing the village dining hall, fanning out across a parking lot, and evacuating wounded residents through the same side gate that attackers, hours earlier, had used to breach the village.

The Israeli counterattack.

Kibbutz surveillance footage, via the Israeli military

A single tank was just arriving.

And a complicated situation was developing at Pesi Cohen’s house, where the 14 hostages were being held.

To slow the soldiers’ advance, the captors had forced roughly half of the hostages, including the Dagans, into Ms. Cohen’s backyard. They positioned the hostages between the troops and the house, according to Ms. Dagan and Ms. Porat.

Expecting crossfire, the Dagans lay down beside the wall of the house, Ms. Dagan cradling her husband from behind.

Around 4 p.m., a police SWAT team and the gunmen began exchanging fire, both women recalled. The hostages in the backyard were trapped in the middle.

Hiding in the kitchen, the Hamas commander began taking off his clothes. Nearly naked, he held Ms. Porat and walked her out of the house, toward the SWAT team, prompting the officers to stop firing.

The Hamas fighter was surrendering, and Ms. Porat was his human shield.

After the two safely reached the police, the gunfire continued, on and off, for more than an hour.

During another lull, Ms. Dagan opened her eyes to see at least two hostages and a captor killed in the gunfire. It wasn’t clear who killed them, she said.

As the dusk approached, the SWAT commander and General Hiram began to argue. The SWAT commander thought more kidnappers might surrender. The general wanted the situation resolved by nightfall.

Minutes later, the militants launched a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the general and other witnesses who spoke to The Times.

“The negotiations are over,” General Hiram recalled telling the tank commander. “Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

The tank fired two light shells at the house.

Shrapnel from the second shell hit Mr. Dagan in the neck, severing an artery and killing him, his wife said.

During the melee, the kidnappers were also killed.

Only two of the 14 hostages — Ms. Dagan and Ms. Porat — survived.

Bullet holes and burn marks in a home where hostages were killed.

Natan Odenheimer for The New York Times

8 p.m.: ‘Wow, This Was a Massacre’

It was dark by the time Israeli troops finally reached the home of the Bachar family.

One soldier peered through the window of the Bachars’ safe room — the same window through which the gunmen had, hours earlier, thrown several grenades.

The soldier flashed the light fixed to the barrel of his gun.

The light fell on Hadar and her father, both still alive. Her mother and brother were dead.

“Wow, this was a massacre,” Mr. Bachar remembered the soldier saying. His leg was later amputated.

The floor of a child’s bedroom, stained with blood.

Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Avida Bachar and Hadar Bachar on their first visit back home since the attack.

Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Ms. Hunwald, the nurse who hid in the clinic bathroom, was reunited with her family around the same time.

As they awaited a bus to take them to safety, rockets flying overhead, the family watched a steady stream of survivors emerge from Be’eri. Some were covered in ash and many were in tears, Ms. Hunwald recalled.

“We’re sitting there helplessly, hugging and crying, still thinking about who might be alive and who might be dead,” Ms. Hunwald said.

It would be another day before the soldiers regained full control over the neighborhood.

By then, bodies lay strewn on sidewalks across the village. More than 120 homes stood smoldering or in ruins. Scores of cars had been burned to ashen husks. Two first responders said they found a dead woman tied to a tree, naked.

At least 25 people had been abducted to Gaza.

As the sun set, a soldier spotted and photographed several half-naked bodies lying under a line of trees.

There were four of them: a woman, a man and two teenage boys — all curled into a fetal position.

Six soldiers stared at their bodies in silence.

It was the Evens and their two eldest sons.

They had all been shot dead.

The bodies of members of the Even family.

Yossi Adiv

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting from Rehovot, Israel. Produced by Rumsey Taylor and Alan Yuhas. Additional work by Meg Felling

Additional sources

The three-dimensional footage inside the Bachar family home and the dental clinic was captured by employees of Treedis, an Israeli software company, who sought to document the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks in detail. Treedis, which makes a platform to turn physical spaces into immersive environments, has captured and published 3d visualizations online about a number of sites of the attacks.


Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top